A joint petition has been filed with the government from 36 business and industrial associations including the Korea Enterprises Federation to demand clarifications of the Fatal Accidents Act. With the law to be enforced on January 27 next year, the business leaders expressed a strong concern over it on the last day of pre-announcement of legislation period.
Their biggest concerns stem from the vastness and uncertainty of the scope of obligations and responsibilities to be imposed on business owners, which they claim will make it difficult to respond in advance. For instance, the law stipulates that the “business owner must see to it that safety and sanitation workers should execute their tasks faithfully,” but it is unclear how much “faithful” is faithful enough. Such ambiguity is prompting business leaders to call for the government to build a system to evaluate and certify the safety and sanitation of a business.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act, the business owner is subjected to criminal punishment if his business produces more than three employees inflicted with occupational diseases in a span of a year, with minor diseases such as the typical summer sunstroke included in the list of hazards. Against this backdrop, the business circles are calling for a clearer definition of major symptoms for “diseases that require six or more months of treatment.”
The petition from the business leaders is a certainly reasonable request. But it remains questionable if relevant government authorities will step up as the labor circles are demanding that the law must be strengthened even further. Owing to the government’s hesitancy, executives at large companies are rejecting offers for safety managers even at the cost of promotions, and the owners of middle-sized firms are seeking to hire a dummy for a blame game. With little wiggle room left, even smaller players have simply given up trying.
If law threatens to punish business owners for industrial accidents but fails to offer a clear definition of accidents, it will constitute a dereliction of duty. The government must take their petition seriously and come up with a more specific guideline in the next five months.