On-Job Deaths of Foreign Workers Rising Sharply
By Do Je-hae
An increasing number of migrant workers in Korea are dying or sustaining injuries on the job, according to a recent report to the National Assembly.
There were 117 occupational fatalities and 5,211 injuries in 2008, Rep. Cho Won-jin of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) said Tuesday. This equals one fatality per every 5,000 migrant workers. Fatalities among Korean workers stand at one per every 10,000, though a significant gap in the sample size of the figures may make for an unfair comparison.
The cases of fatalities and injuries are apparently rising, as 87 were killed and 3,967 were injured at work in 2007.
The figures came from a report prepared by the Korea Occupational Safety & Health Agency (KOSHA) ahead of the National Assembly’s government inspection of the agency.
“As a major destination for migrant workers, we need to be better equipped with measures for their occupational safety,” Rep. Cho said in a statement. “Since many of the fatalities occurred on construction sites, we need stronger enforcement of safety guidelines in the construction sector.”
The sector has often been criticized for its lack of adherence to safety rules.
As many as 60 out of 100 construction companies here have not hired a safety officer as required by law, Rep. Kim Jae-yun of the main opposition Democratic Party said Monday.
The KOSHA report showed that 43 people have been killed in the first half of this year alone, with 38 of them dying in accidents. Around 2,440 have been injured this year.
Among the 43 fatalities, 19 occurred on construction sites and 14 at manufacturing sites.
There are total of 570,000 migrant workers employed in certain key industries, such as construction, agriculture, livestock and fisheries, among others.
Some migrant workers who have entered the country illegally are unable to receive assistance in dealing with industrial injuries, authorities said.
Unless seriously injured, many illegal migrant workers do not sign up for insurance, fearing that their status may be disclosed. Even those working with proper registration often do not get the benefits they are entitled to, due to insufficient support from their employers.
Due to the rising concerns for the welfare of migrant employees, KOSHA has been running campaigns to raise the awareness of the issue thorough online promotional videos and instructions, available in Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and other languages. For more information, visit www.kosha.or.kr.
General industrial fatalities have been on the rise since beginning of the decade.
Out of the 12,528,879 employees working at 1,429,885 workplaces covered by the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act, the number of fatalities stood at 2,406.
Among them, 1,383 were due to injuries and 1,023 were due to fatal illnesses.
The number of injuries and illnesses has increased considerably since 2001 as the coverage of the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act was extended to include companies with at least 1 employee in Jul. 2000.
The top three causes of fatalities at the workplace include heart disease, pneumoconiosis and falls.