In the early morning of Oct. 15 this year, an employee in her twenties got caught in a machine and died at a bakery factory. This incident occurred at an SPC affiliate in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do. During the investigation of SPC industrial accidents by the police and the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the poor industrial environment of SPC was revealed. It was especially serious because of the 12-hour shifts, in groups of two work rule that was not followed, and the lack of safety devices. On Jan. 27 of this year, The Serious Accidents Punishment Act was enforced for the purpose of preventing the occurrence of industrial accidents, but such industrial accidents still occur. In order to find the structural problems of the current industrial environment and the direction of improvement, a CBT reporter met and interviewed prof. Kim Doo-hyun of the Dept. of Safety Engineering at CBNU.
1. According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, 206 workers were killed or injured due to industrial accidents related to mixers in the 5 years before the SPC mixer machine jamming accident. What do you think are the structural problems in the industrial environment where the same labor accidents occur repeatedly and what causes them?
Structural problems in the industrial environment where the same or similar accidents occur include a lack of awareness of safety values, corporate attitudes that prioritize management over safety, a society insensitive to risks due to low safety awareness, the reality of work driven by high-intensity labor, the absence of a safety management system, and the government’s attitude toward accidents. In the event of an accident, the employer thinks of production disruptions due to work stoppage first rather than improving safety measures and facilities at the site. In addition, even if a safety management system exists, in most cases it does not work properly in the field, and the government investigates safety accidents from a different perspective rather than safety engineering or safety management, failing to learn from previous accidents. Homogeneous and similar accidents are repeated due to causes associated with these structural problems.
2. During the investigation of the SPC industrial accident by the police and the Ministry of Employment and Labor, it was recently revealed through media reports that the automatic protection device was not installed on the machine in which the accident occurred. Why do you think these basic safety devices are not properly equipped in industrial sites?
If safety devices are judged to impede productivity due to the nature of the facility or process, some companies do not install, or even disconnect the devices. If a company prioritizes profit over safety, safety devices cannot be properly equipped in industrial sites. In fact, even if safety devices are properly installed, accidents cannot be prevented with safety devices alone unless the hazardous risk factors in the facility or process are completely removed. This is because the safety of workers is at risk if the safety device itself breaks down. In order to secure fundamental safety, improvements to safety facilities that do not require safety devices should be prioritized. However, in many cases it is practically difficult in terms of technology and productivity. Therefore, in order to secure the effectiveness of safety device installation, it is necessary to make efforts to improve facilities with advanced technology and it must be preceded by a shift in social awareness from production to safety.
3. One of the key directions at the ‘Discussion for Establishing a Roadmap for Reducing Serious Accidents’ organized by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, was ‘the prevention of recurrence of industrial accidents.’ How do you think the environment at industrial sites should be improved in order to fundamentally prevent industrial accidents in a social culture where the need for preemptive responses is emphasized rather than follow-up measures?
In order to prevent accidents, it is most important to establish a safety culture at industrial sites. If a dedicated safety organization is formed and a culture in which safety experts can concentrate on discovering and eliminating hazardous risk factors on site is created, it will be possible to prevent accidents and their recurrence in advance. Employers should neglect neither minor accidents and near misses nor major accidents on site. The causes of safety accidents are very complex. Therefore, no matter how rigorously the business owner establishes and supervises the safety and health management system, it isn’t possible to monitor all situations that occur on site and present appropriate countermeasures at all times. Therefore, workers must always be mindful of the possibility of an accident due to human error, and both employers and workers must keep in mind that “safety is both a right and a duty.” In addition, the evaluation of human and material disaster loss costs must be improved to the level of advanced countries in order to realize the goal of developing a society where the value of life is respected. A safety culture will be formed in industrial sites when the social awareness of the value of safety changes and workers’ safety behaviors are unconsciously realized. It is impossible to plan or anticipate these changes in a short time. Therefore, continuous efforts of employers, workers, and the government are required to develop a proper safety culture in the field. Industrial accidents will be fundamentally prevented when employers strive for management for the safety of workers, when workers comply with safety rules at all times, and when the government is faithful to thorough management and supervision, which is its original responsibility.
Currently, socially active discussions, such as the ‘Discussion for Establishing a Roadmap for Reduction of Serious Accidents’ are underway in the industry. Industrial safety is an important issue directly related to people’s lives, so the time has come for the continuous need of pan-national interest in industrial safety issues.
By Kim Chan-ju