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The Korean Law Blog by IPG Legal Law Firm

The Serious Accident Punishment Act (“SAPA”) was passed by the Korean National Assembly and came into effect on January 27, 2022. With the implementation and recent expansion of the SAPA, we encourage all employers to do a comprehensive compliance audit. Some law firms, including this one, have attorneys and staff that can assist your team in doing a comprehensive audit.

SAPA has greatly expanded the list of accidents that are applicable and significantly increased the penalties for breaking the law. The SAPA imposes criminal liability against business owners and responsible management officers who fail to maintain the safety of their business activities if it is found that recklessness in safety management was the cause of a significant accident.

Objectives of SAPA

According to Article 1, the objective of the SAPA is to punish business owners, top executives, and corporations that cause fatal accidents by neglecting safety and health regulations in order to prevent serious accidents and protect the lives and health of the public and employees. This broad objective has been noted by some, as indicating that the law is too reactionary in nature. We shall update the reader when more is known concerning the implementation and enforcement of the law by the courts. For an article on amendments to OSHA Act see: Amendments to Korea’s OSHA Act and Amendments to Korea’s Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Law.

What is the Definition of a Serious Industrial Accident?

A serious industrial accident is one that results in:

(1) one or more deaths;

(2) two or more injured persons who need to be treated for six months or more; or

(3) three or more occupational diseases within one year due to the same risk factor(s) (art. 2(2)).

What is the Definition of a Serious Civil Accident?

A serious civil accident refers to an accident that is caused by defects in the design, manufacture, installation, or management of specific materials, products, public facilities, or public transportation and it results in:

(1) one or more deaths;

(2) ten or more injured persons who need to be treated for two months or more due to the same accident; or

(3) ten or more diseased people who need to be treated for three months or more due to the same cause (art. 2(2)).

How SAPA affecs Business Owners?

The SAPA makes business owners, management staff, or companies criminally liable for fatalities or serious injuries that take place in their places of business. While the SAPA is primarily applicable to industrial settings, such as factories or construction sites, it can also be utilized to hold office workers accountable in cases of fatality or serious injury caused by overwork, electrical accidents, or falls in the workplace.

We believe all businesses should, immediately:

  • Establish and implement health and safety management procedures. In many cases, it is a good idea to get an outside consultant or someone from HQ to assist.
  • Establish and put in place steps to avoid serious incidents from happening. This, often, requires research into, typical, accidents in your industry and typical ways to mitigate risk.
  • Implement management measures to meet the requirements of the applicable safety and health law and to comply with government remedial orders. In some cases, an office should appoint a safety officer to be in charge of these high-level management measures.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the health and safety management system on a regular basis, as well as if managers, employees, and contractors are following safety precautions.
  • Do a complete and full compliance audit. Make sure you are in compliance with all rules and regulations.
  • Publish clear safety rules and uniformly enforce the rules. Punish those who fail to follow the rules.

You can arrange a free first consultation with an attorney from IPG Legal at Schedule a Call with an Attorney in Korea.

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