The amended Occupational Safety and Health Act of Korea (hereinafter as “OSHA”) entered into force on January 15, 2019. One major aspect of the revision is that it has raised the risk of liability of representatives of institutions and companies and companies for workplace industries in Korea. The amended Korean OSHA law is expected to increase the risk to company management, increase liability of companies and increase options for employees that are perceived to have been harmed because of the actions or inaction of employers.
Korean OSHA Basics
- Importer or Manufacturer of harmful and/or dangerous chemicals should draft a Material Safety Data Sheet and send it to the Ministry of Employment & Labor for approval. The Material Safety Sheet is publicly published – in most cases.
- Hazardous work shall not be contracted out by companies to third parties. However the amendment provides some notable exceptions (beyond the scope of this present post).
- Construction companies and other outside companies should provide employees a Security Sheet that specifically details relevant health and safety concerns.
- Certain representative directors of companies have to provide an Annual Health & Safety Plan, approved by the board of directors of the company. An infringement of this obligation can be punished with a fine up to KRW 10,000,000.
- Some larger franchise businesses must establish a Health & Safety System for their employees. Franchisors have the duty to provide information on the danger and proper operation of certain work-related equipment.
- The scope of protected employees is extended and includes, also, non-employee workers, which are not, presently, subject to the Labor Standards Act of Korea.
- The Ministry of Employment & Labor is able to order an immediate suspension of work – if an urgent hazardous industrial accidents occur.
Increased Penalty for violations of Korean OSHA
- The death of an employee in Korea based on the violations of Korean OSH obligations may be penalized with up to 10 years of imprisonment or a fine up to KRW 1,000,000,000.
- The liability of a company towards its contracted employees regarding the health and safety of contracted employees may be penalized with imprisonment up to five years or with a fine up to KRW 50,000,000.
- In case of an urgent dangerous risk at the workplace, employees have now the right to unilaterally suspend work and immediately leave the hazardous area. Any action of the company preventing an employee from exercising this right may be penalized with imprisonment up to one year or with a fine up to KRW 10,000,000.
The current Occupational Safety and Health Act may be found at: Korean OSHA.
As noted above, the amended Korean OSHA law is expected to increase the risk to company management and companies while increasing options for employees in Korea that are perceived to have been harmed because of the actions or inaction of employers. We, highly, recommend that any company operating in an industry that poses risk to the health and safety of employees – to have a proactive law firm in Korea conduct a comprehensive compliance audit.
by Barbara Goiser
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