Countermeasures for reducing industrial accident deaths and labor unions

Yugyeong Jeong

The “Measures to Reduce Industrial Accident Deaths in 2021”, announced by the government on March 25, is a measure to upgrade the comprehensive plan for occupational safety and health supervision established by the Ministry of Labor to the government level amid successive deaths in industrial accidents. The government has decided to focus on reducing accidents in the manufacturing industry and construction industry, where most of the deaths in industrial accidents occur. Countermeasures include close management of workplaces with frequent fatal accidents, guidance and supervision of defective workplaces through cooperation between safety management entities, and establishment of a safety and health management system. However, this countermeasure focused on accidental disasters is not suitable as a countermeasure against the deaths of occupational diseases and is considered to be less effective. Accordingly, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions insisted on countermeasures for basic matters such as safety and health education and the spread of safety culture, and emphasized that they would confirm the implementation of this countermeasure through the field.

The government’s measures are said to have no effect on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which make up a large portion of Korean businesses. However, industrial accident victims usually occur at workplaces with less than 50 people. It is believed to be in a similar context to the current status of trade unions by business size. Compared to those of large corporations, small and medium-sized workers are less protected despite their low levels of job security and working conditions. In a problem situation requiring consultation with employers or government support, it is difficult for individual workers to exert great influence. In order to solve this situation, there will be labor unions and trade union federations, and the working environment will improve as they identify the shortcomings in this measure and strongly urge for supplementation.

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