Hyundai Engineering and Construction is among a number of construction firms that are shutting down their sites today and keeping them closed until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday – around 3 or 4 February – to avoid becoming the first to be prosecuted under a new worker protection law, the Yonhap news agency reports.
Under the Serious Accidents Punishment Act, which has just come into force, owners and chief executives of companies with 50 or more employees can face a minimum one-year prison sentence or a fine of $833,000 if a serious accident takes place and they are shown to have been negligent.
According to the Ministry of Employment and Labour, of the 576 companies involved in serious accidents last year, more than half were in construction.
South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labour has allotted more than $900m to help companies adapt their work practises to comply with the new law.
The implementation comes two weeks after an accident at a site in Gwangju, 330km south of Seoul, in which the wall of a 39-storey apartment being built by HDC Hyundai Development collapsed, leaving one worker dead and five missing.
Following the accident, HDC established an emergency safety committee made of former chief executives. The committee is supposed to agree compensation for victims and will recommend safety measures, including the appointment of a chief safety officer and the replacement of executives.
Chung Mong-gyu, the company’s co-chief executive, has already resigned.
In June last year, HDC Hyundai Development was involved in the collapse of a five-storey building that was being demolished in Gwangju, killing nine bus passengers.