Category: Workers’ Health and Safety

Humiliated’ nurses forced to perform erotic dance for top officials by South Korea hospital (International Business times)

The issue of the working condition of Korean health workers, especially the nurses, continues to be revealed. Following last month’s unveiling of nurses who were illegally paid wages below the minimum wage in their early employment, some hospitals have recently been found to be treating their workers insultingly. The suffering of nurses’ working condition in Korea seems to be arising from Korea’s harsh labor culture, the authoritarian hierarchy of the medical organization and widespread sexualization of women.

#health_worker #nurses #working_condition #stop_sexualize #Korea


  • South Korean nurses allegedly forced to dance in front of high-ranking officials.

  • Korean Nurses Association calls for investigation into Sacred Heart Hospital of Hallym University.

south Korea nurses
Nurses complained of feeling ‘humiliated’ after performing onstage Screengrab/YTN

 

A South Korean hospital is under investigation for allegedly making its nurses perform a “seductive” dance in front of high-ranking officials at a formal event.

Video footage emerged showing groups of woman in skimpy outfits on stage, sparking outrage after it was widely shared online.

Nurses at the Sacred Heart Hospital of Hallym University claim they were forced to take part in the erotic dance in front of more than 1,000 co-workers and hospital officials during an annual sports competition in October.

The footage was uploaded by a whistleblower onto Facebook, who also suggested it is not the first time this has happened.

According to Korea Times, the nurse wrote: “Those forced to dance are usually the newly hired nurses, who are unable to refuse such orders. We are forced to dance in front of high-ranking officials of the firm who sit side-by-side at a long table.

Other nurses have also come forward on social media to claim they were encouraged to make sexually suggestive faces while performing the dance.

“During practice, managers at the Nursing Department would give instructions on making seductive gestures and facial expressions,” one nurse wrote.

Another added: “Some nurses even cried to express their extreme humiliation, but officials would always brush this off, saying they are making a big deal out of something everyone does.

“It is devastating to hear the hospital officials claimed they did not know about the situation after this finally got out.”

South Korea nurses
Footage of the South Korea nurses dancing was uploaded to Facebook Screengrab YTN

The Korean Nurses Association has called for an investigation into what the allegations surrounding Hallym University’s Sacred Heart Hospital.

It said in a statement: “This is a grave challenge to the vocation and self-esteem of nurses.

“There are numerous nurses who endure an intense workload, low paycheck and frequent overtime with their sense of duty and vocation. Considering this, the scandal was defamatory and offensive to these nurses.”

The Ministry of Employment and Labor confirmed an inquiry in under way.

A spokesperson told the Korea Times: “If we find legal problems, we will summon the hospital officials responsible.”

Seventy percent of part-time workers complain of work-related illnesses (Koreaherald)

#exhaution #work_related_illness #Albamon #Korea

“… a jobs portal, polled 2,054 part-time employees from Nov. 1-3 and found that 72 percent had complaints about various physical conditions due to their work. ”

 

Original Article from : http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171106000283&ACE_SEARCH=1


Seven out of 10 part-time workers said they are suffering from job-related illnesses, mostly chronic exhaustion, in a survey released Monday.

Albamon, a jobs portal, polled 2,054 part-time employees from Nov. 1-3 and found that 72 percent had complaints about various physical conditions due to their work. Health problems were reported by 74.5 percent of those employed in the services industry, followed by 72.3 percent in sales, 69.9 percent in production and physical labor, and 61.6 percent in administrative work, IT and design.

(Yonhap)

Chronic exhaustion was cited by 58.2 percent of those polled, where multiple answers were allowed. Another 48.5 percent complained of swollen legs from having to work standing up all day.

Thirty-nine percent said they had symptoms of arthritis or muscle pain, 28.1 percent said they had indigestion, and 26.6 percent had pains in the wrists or shoulders. Another 15.2 percent complained of migraine headaches and 13.4 percent had trouble sleeping. (Yonhap)

Semiconductor workers’ seek acknowledgement of industrial accident status

#Banollim #Industrial_Accident #Samsung #worker’s_health

“In August, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff in a case filed by a former Samsung Electronics worker demanding industrial accident acknowledgment for their multiple sclerosis. Citing the principle of “relieving the burden of proof,” the court overturned an earlier court decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that the correlation between the worker’s duties and the illness was inadequately proven.”

Original Article from : http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/817039.html

 


The semiconductor worker health and human rights watchdog group Banollim holds a press conference on Oct. 31 at the southern Seoul branch of the Korea Workers‘ Compensation and Welfare Service (K-Comwel) to urge the agency to “quickly acknowledge industrial accident status for workers suffering occupational diseases in the electronics industry.” (provided by Banollim)

Employees in the industry became sick with a variety of illness including leukemia and multiple sclerosis

Seven people who contracted leukemia, lymphoma, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions during or after working for South Korean semiconductor manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, applied for acknowledgment of industrial accident status on Oct. 31.

The semiconductor worker health and human rights watchdog group Banollim held a press conference the same day at the southern Seoul branch of the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (K-Comwel) to urge the agency to “quickly acknowledge industrial accident status for workers suffering occupational diseases in the electronics industry.”

Banollim’s request for acknowledgment was the 13th since the group began filing collective requests for leukemia cases at Samsung Electronics employees in Apr. 2008. As of Oct. 31, the group had applied for collective industrial accident acknowledgment for 94 people, but only 22 received it. Of the 393 semiconductor-related occupational disease sufferers reported to Banollim over the past ten years, 144 have already passed away.

In the past, K-Comwel has been reluctant to grant industrial accident acknowledgment, citing a lack of evidence of exposure to carcinogens or clear medical causes for the conditions – effectively placing the burden of proof on the victims. In contrast, Banollim has demanded that industrial accident acknowledgment standards be immediately revised in line with a recent Supreme Court decision, and insisted that acknowledgment be granted in cases of repeated instances of occupational diseases without a long investigation and review process.

In August, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff in a case filed by a former Samsung Electronics worker demanding industrial accident acknowledgment for their multiple sclerosis. Citing the principle of “relieving the burden of proof,” the court overturned an earlier court decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that the correlation between the worker’s duties and the illness was inadequately proven. Attention is now turning to the administration as it weighs a changing in policy amid recent court decisions taking a more stance on industrial accident acknowledgment.

 

By Cho Il-jun, staff reporter

Corruption in the Recruitment Process of Public Institutions While Actual Unemployment Rate Experienced by the Young Peaks (Kyunghyang editorial)

#empoyment #corruption  #SDH #Korea

Original Article from :
http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?code=710100&artid=201710191723307&medid=enkh#csidx472c4dd46b0f36ca144217cb68c0ebb 


The employment rate of people in their twenties continues to fall for the sixth month since April. During that same period, there was no other age group that recorded a negative employment rate. While the employment rate of young people dropped, the unemployment rate in the same age group continued to climb to rates of 9-10%.

According to the September employment trend released by Statistics Korea on October 18, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15-29 dropped 0.2% from a year ago to 9.2%. When we look at the people just in their twenties, the rate is 9.4%. After the unemployment rate of the people in their twenties recorded 8.5% in January this year, it has remained in the 9% level for eight months. When we include the number of people who have given up looking for employment and who are preparing to enter the job market, the actual unemployment rate experienced by the young people climbs to 21.5%, a 0.2% increase from the same period last year. This is the highest level for September since 2015 when related statistics were collected. We are witnessing a situation in which one in every five young people continue to remain unemployed. The situation is the same with the employment rate. The employment rate dropped 0.8% from 58.7% last year to 57.9%. Among the people in their twenties, job-seekers, who are classified as “on a break,” also increased by 31,000 (13.1%) from a year ago.

The decline in youth employment and the increase in the actual unemployment rate experienced by the young people is depressing news indeed for the people preparing to enter the job market, already disappointed at a series of corruption cases in the recruitment of employees by public and financial institutions. In a parliamentary inspection a few days ago, Justice Party lawmaker Sim Sang-jeung raised allegations of corruption in the recruitment of employees at Woori Bank. According to a document titled, “Recommendations for the Public Recruitment of New Employees in 2016,” which Sim released, Woori Bank allegedly recruited sixteen children and relatives of senior officials at the National Intelligence Service and the Financial Supervisory Service and of VIP customers when hiring new workers last year. The document included the personal information of the people who were suspected of having made the solicitation under the column for “relevant information,” as well as the personal information of the applicants, such as name, age, gender, and educational background. The name and position of the Woori Bank executive was written under the column “referrer” and in the case of the children of VIP customers, the bank account details of the applicant was included in the “remarks” section. If this allegation is true, it is indeed shocking. The moral hazard of the executives and employees at the Financial Supervisory Service is serious, as allegations of job solicitations have emerged following problems with large loans and corruption in employee recruitment.

Words cannot express the shock that the people seeking employment must have felt after corruption in the recruitment process at Kangwon Land and the Financial Supervisory Service was exposed, ahead of Woori Bank. Irregularities in the recruitment process at public and financial institutions shatter the principle of equal opportunity and are crimes that discourage the people seeking employment. The government should thoroughly investigate the latest corruption case and strictly punish those responsible. In addition, the government needs to make every effort to provide a policy that can promote the employment of young people.

원문보기:
http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?code=710100&artid=201710191723307&medid=enkh#csidxcb3d0e14fee0f899be4af2d5fac94f0 

Complaints soar after release of info on sanitary pads

#women_health #chemical #safety #menstrual_care_product

Chemical safety problem around various products issued in Korea, starting from humidifier sterilizer, sanitary pads, pesticide-containing egg, etc. Is this just society being chemical-phobic and untrustful or is it because exposure to unregulated toxic chemicals included in everyday supplies rightfuly being exposed?

 

 


Complaints about unexpected side effects from using sanitary pads have spiked since mid-August when information regarding the materials used in these products were released, according to the Food and Drug Safety Ministry on Wednesday.

Since Aug. 21, a total of 74 complaints have been lodged with the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Risk Management concerning the use of menstrual care products. There were no complaints regarding menstrual care products reported before Aug. 20.

The complaints mostly focused on the use of Lilian pads, which were named as one of the brands of products containing toxins. Side effects that were reported included changes in menstrual cycles and volume.

Sanitary pads at a discount retailer in Seoul (Yonhap)

The complaints were sent by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry to a committee on sanitary pad safety, made up of independent experts for further study. The committee will be responsible for leading tests on existing products in the market and creating new sets of standards for specific toxins that are found in sanitary products.

Meanwhile, a local women’s rights group announced last month that it had collected complaints from over 3,000 women over three days last month after the safety study was made public.

Additional information released by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry showed that all of the top brands of sanitary pads being sold in Korea contained toxic chemicals.

These types of chemicals have not yet been scientifically linked to health risks for women, but the news has led to more consumers turning to organic cotton products or buying menstrual cups directly from overseas sellers.

Sales of cotton pads in the two weeks following initial news reports about Lilian pads rose 385 percent on-year at discount retailer E-mart. Sales of menstrual cups to Korean consumers from health products website Vitatra rose 470 percent compared to the previous week, in the week following the reports. Menstrual cups have not yet been certified for sale in Korea.

“This case demonstrates how crucial it is for consumers to have the right information,” said Park Myung-hee, who heads the consumer rights group Korea Consumer’s Network.

“Women could not come forward before because they did not know that it was possible that these products contained toxins, but that did not mean there was no risk. Rather than taking action only on products that create public outcry, safety agencies need to make more of an effort to identify risks ahead of time and engage with the public.”

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)

Original article from: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170906000823&ACE_SEARCH=1

Government preparing bill to prevent serious industrial accidents (Kyunghyang)

In the Case of a Fatal Industrial Accident, the Main Contractor Will Also Be Subject to Up to 7 Years in Prison and 100 Mn Won in Fines


#industrial_hazard #bill_responding_to_”outsourcing_of_danger” #should_watch_over #FINALLY

In the future, when a major industrial accident occurs due to a failure to follow safety measures, the main contractor, as well as the subcontractor, will be subject to a maximum of 7 years in prison or a fine of up to 100 million won. A new bill will also have the main contractor, which caused the serious industrial accident, receive disadvantages when bidding for construction contracts, and protect emotional laborers such as the employees working at call centers from industrial accidents.

On August 17, the government accepted the “Measures to Prevent Serious Industrial Accidents” including these details at a meeting to review and adjust current state tasks chaired by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon. Major industrial accidents were defined as work sites where a fatal accident occurred or accidents where two or more people suffered injuries requiring more than three months of treatment and where more than ten people were simultaneously injured. The Ministry of Employment and Labor will draw up amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act to include these details and submit the bill to the National Assembly next March. The government plans to enforce the revised bill in the second half of next year.

The main contractor’s responsibility and punishment for industrial accidents will be strengthened to prevent the “outsourcing” of danger. In the past, the main contractor was subject to up to a year in prison or a fine of less than 10 million won for not adhering to safety measures when a major industrial accident occurred, but punishment will be strengthened, and the main contractor will now be subject to the same punishment as the subcontractors. Until now the main contractor was only responsible for the operations carried out in sites designated as “dangerous,” but now the contractors will be responsible for industrial accidents that occur in all sites. The latest government measure will have the main contractor personally handle operations that deal with particularly high levels of toxicity or danger, such as refining mercury, handling of heavy metals, and plating. As for tower cranes and railway sites, where a series of major accidents had occurred recently, the government plans to draw up guidelines to strengthen inspection standards and to adjust train hours during operations.
The government will also draw up a bill to protect workers engaging in emotional labor, such as the staff at call centers, from industrial hazards. In addition, the government will also make it mandatory for businesses to provide protective gear and safety education for workers in special forms, such as the workers in motorcycle parcel delivery or food delivery. Businesses that fail to follow such regulations will be punished with up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

Minister of Employment and Labor Kim Young-joo said, “We will soon establish a task force on innovative safety policies with labor and management and provide specific measures to prevent industrial hazards.”

Original Article from:
http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201708181832407&code=710100#csidxee492cbddb3e6358b4e13d6b53386bf 

The Continuing Death of Migrant Workers Requires Human Rights Measures (Kyunghyang)

“There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society. ”

 

#migrant_workers #labor_exploitation #human_right_violation #discrimination #pig_farm_worker’s_death


After a series of deaths of migrant workers who worked cleaning the septic tank of a rural pig farm, people are raising their voices calling for the government to protect the rights of laborers and prevent industrial accidents. Labor and social NGOs such as the Migrants’ Trade Union held a press conference in front of the government office in Seoul on June 4 and announced, “Every year, an average of 2.8 migrant workers died after suffocating in the septic tanks, but this year, four have already died.” There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society.

The reliance on foreign labor in South Korea’s agricultural and livestock sector as well as the so-called “3D” manufacturing industry concerning dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks is growing. Nevertheless, the migrant workers working in the agricultural and livestock sector continue to suffer human rights violations, such as physical and verbal abuse, and they are forced to endure harsh working conditions. The death of four migrant workers at a pig farm last month is also connected to such background. On May 12, two Nepalese workers suffocated and died while cleaning a septic tank at a pig farm in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The suction machine for the excrements broke down and the workers manually cleaned the tank without any safety equipment such as masks, eventually dying from the toxic gas. Also on May 27, a Chinese worker in his sixties and a Thai worker in his thirties also lost consciousness while cleaning the excrements at a pig farm in Buknae-myeon, Yeoju-si, Gyeonggi-do. They were moved to a hospital, but later died.

Migrant workers working in the rural areas are “excluded” from provisions pertaining to working hours and holidays according to Article 63 of the Labor Standards Act. They cannot properly receive overdue wages as well as leaves and overtime pay. This is why people are calling migrant workers the modern-day serf, and joke that their workdays are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, and Friday. In particular, the Act on the Employment, Etc. of Foreign Workers (Employment Permit System) restricts the migrant workers’ freedom of occupation, because it limits the number of times and the time to change work places. In particular, workers who entered the country with a work visa in the agriculture and livestock sector are banned from finding employment in the manufacturing and service industries, which have relatively more jobs.

The government should immediately revise legislation that work against labor and human rights, such as the Employment Permit System, and concentrate on protecting the basic rights and labor rights of the migrant workers. Otherwise, South Korea will not be able to escape from the stigma as a “labor hell” and as “a country that exploits labor,” instead of gaining the reputation as a “land of opportunity.”

Article from: http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201706052034107&code=790101#csidx65185514af5b1faa4bc258cdc42a492

 

 

Court with first recognition of multiple sclerosis caused at Samsung factory (hankyoreh)

#work_related_disease #Samsung #semi-conductor_plant #multiple_sclerosis #Banollim

 

“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,”

 

Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province

Former semiconductor worker likely had rare disease caused by exposure to solvents at factory

A South Korean court has recognized a former worker at Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor factory who is suffering from the rare disease of multiple sclerosis as having a work-related condition, the first time that multiple sclerosis has been recognized as a work-related condition on the semiconductor production line at Samsung Electronics.

“Even in the case of rare diseases whose causes have not been completely determined, when the elements mentioned in current medical research as causing or aggravating the disease are present in the work environment or in the work process, the disease should be recognized as being work-related,” the court said.On May 28, Hon. Kim Yong-seok, presiding judge in the second administrative division of the Seoul High Court, overruled the lower court and sided with the plaintiff, Kim So-jeong (33, not her real name), who contracted multiple sclerosis after working for two years at Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province. Kim had asked the court to force the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) to reverse its decision not to cover Kim’s medical expenses.

Kim got a job at Samsung straight out of high school in 2003 but quit after just two years. That was when she started experiencing symptoms such as weight loss, irregular urination, loss of vision, facial paralysis and reduced sensation, and three years after leaving Samsung, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She asked KCOMWEL to cover the cost of her treatment, but the agency refused her request, leading her to file a lawsuit in 2013.

Multiple sclerosis is an extremely rare disease, only occurring in 3.5 out of 100,000 people (and 1.4 out of 100,000 people in their twenties) in South Korea, and the exact cause of the disease has not been determined. For these reasons, KCOMWEL argued, it is not a work-related disease.But the court concluded that Kim’s multiple sclerosis was work-related because three of the factors thought to cause the disease applied to Kim: inadequate exposure to sunlight, exposure to organic solvents and heavy metals, and working in shifts.

“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,” the court said.In connection with exposure to organic solvents, the court also quoted the results of a 2013 assessment of health and safety at the Giheung plant by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA), which found that the plant did not have any equipment to blow harmful gases outside the building and that not enough was being done to prevent workers from being exposed to high concentrations of harmful materials in a short period of time. “Considering that Samsung Electronics did not submit the documents that were necessary for assessing its system for managing the exposure to harmful materials on the grounds that this was a business secret, there seem to have been more problems than the ones that were identified,” the court said, a remark that implicitly criticizes Samsung Electronics’ reluctance to submit the documents in question.“The Korea Workers‘ Compensation and Welfare Service must not prolong the suffering of the victim by unfairly appealing this decision,” said Banollim, a watchdog group advocating the health of semiconductor plant workers, in a statement released on May 28. Banollim represented Kim in the case.

 

Article from: http://bit.ly/2slHcxL

What Happened to the Rookie Producer of Drinking Solo? “Excessive Work Load and Personal Insult Led to His Death” (Kyunghyang)

TV show that shares challenges and sorrows of young people preparing for a (barely) secure job, and one who produced it killed himself suffering cruel working environment and labor exploitation.

#work_to_death, #labor_exploitation, #tvN_Drinking_Solo #South_Korea

At a press conference at the Francisco Hall in Jeong-dong, Seoul on April 18, Kim Hye-yeong, the mother of the late producer Lee Han-bit cries as she calls for an investigation into the death of her son. Jeong Ji-yun

At a press conference at the Francisco Hall in Jeong-dong, Seoul on April 18, Kim Hye-yeong, the mother of the late producer Lee Han-bit cries as she calls for an investigation into the death of her son. Jeong Ji-yun

The death of a rookie producer of the tvN drama Drinking Solo may have been the result of an excessive work load, personal insults, and the authoritarian culture in the company. The Youth Union and the bereaved family members formed a “committee to resolve the death of the rookie assistant producer of Drinking Solo.” The committee held a press conference on April 18 and demanded that the broadcasting company release the investigation results of the suicide of Lee Han-bit, who died last year, along with an apology and measures to prevent recurrence.
On October 26, 2016, Lee Han-bit (27 at the time), a rookie producer at tvN, a cable channel owned by CJ E&M, was found dead five days after he had gone missing. Lee joined the company in January 2016 and was assigned to the production of Drinking Solo in April. Drinking Solo is a TV drama about the challenges and sorrows of young people preparing for the civil service examination in Noryangjin, Seoul.
At the time, the company said that Lee died due to personal issues. However, when the committee analyzed the conversations on Lee’s KakaoTalk account and his phone calls and interviewed the employees of the partner companies related to the show, the results pointed in another direction.
The committee argued that Lee suffered from work-related stress that was too intense to bear for a rookie assistant producer. The contractor in charge of lighting and photography for Drinking Solo was replaced just before the show’s first episode was to air. This reduced the production period by two weeks. The committee said, “This caused the working environment of the production team to deteriorate profoundly.”
Lee had to oversee various tasks including costumes and props, and he had to organize the set and settle the account. According to his phone records, he was able to take a break for only two days from August 27, 2016 when the shooting resumed until October 20, the day before he was reported missing. During that period, he had made 1,547 calls and is estimated to have slept an average of 4-5 hours a day. Lee also struggled after he was in charge of laying off temporary staff. In his suicide note, he wrote, “The words ‘labor exploitation,’ which the staff mentioned half jokingly, dug into my heart. To them, I’m nothing more than a manager who squeezes out the workers.” The verbal abuse within the production team was also serious. The recordings and KakaoTalk conversations Lee left behind show that the others frequently slandered and spoke profanity towards Lee when having a company dinner or talking in the group chat room.
In the two responses that CJ E&M sent to the committee last December and January, the company said, “There was no abuse or insult of Lee.” In fact, the company went on to state, “According to an internal investigation, the company suffered damages due to Lee’s poor conduct.” The committee refuted, “CJ E&M is driving this issue into a problem of Lee’s personal attitude just based on the statements by the senior producer and the main producer.”
This day, CJ E&M announced, “We express our deepest condolences to the family in pain. If the police or other public authority launches an investigation, we will willingly cooperate.”
Article from:  http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201704191802387&code=710100#csidx9be276affbb4483ab7395a63b73b6a0

Samsung semiconductor worker is first case of female infertility recognized as industrial accident (Hankyoreh)

“A female worker‘s infertility has been recognized as an industrial accident for the first time in South Korean history.”

“27% of 406 female nurses who had handled such substances as having experienced difficulty conceiving; 22.8% as having experienced premature birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage; and 20.2% of having experienced menstrual irregularities. While the stillbirth and miscarriage rate was 13.9% for female workers enrolled in health insurance through their workplace between 2007 and 2015, an analysis for manufacturing in particular found high rates of 16.6% and 16.2% for timber, lumber products, and furniture manufacturing and for rubber and plastic manufacturing, respectively.”

#Samsung #female_infertility_as_occupational_disease #industrial_accident #Korea

 

Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province

Data show women who handle toxic chemicals at work more likely to suffer reproductive difficulties, including miscarriages

A female worker‘s infertility has been recognized as an industrial accident for the first time in South Korean history. The decision recognizing the worker’s infertility as an “occupational disease” was significant in coming amid widespread attention to the protection of mothers in response to South Korea’s low birth rate, as well as growing interest in the use of reproduction-toxic substances in workplaces.

The Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (K-COMWEL) announced on Mar. 19 that it had granted the request of a 39-year-old surnamed Kim to have her infertility recognized as an occupational disease and treatment benefits paid. Kim worked for 15 years in a production position at a Samsung semiconductors factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim went to work at Samsung in 1997 after graduating high school. She began undergoing treatment for infertility in 2008, when she was 30 years old. She left the company in 2012 due to a missed miscarriage and other ill health, and filed for industrial accident certification in 2013.“While performing shift work for 15 years as a production employee at a semiconductor plant, [Kim] was exposed, albeit in small quantities, to organic compounds such as ethylene glycol,” K-COMWEL wrote in its occupational disease ruling for Kim. “The causal relationship with her duties is recognized, as the weakening of her physical functions, including diminished immune capabilities as a result of overwork and stress related to long-term shift work, led to her infertility.”

Used in semiconductor plants as a cleaning solution, ethylene glycol is classified as a reproduction-toxic substance that causes birth defects. While infertility and miscarriages were cited as potentially subject to compensation in a 2015 recommendation by the Samsung occupational disease mediation committee, they have not been included in the standards of the company‘s independently formed compensation committee.

Reproduction-toxic substances, or substances with harmful effects on reproduction functions and capabilities and embryo generation and development, have been seen as causing far-reaching damages, as they not only affect the individual suffering exposure but can also cause health problems in the next generation. According to Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) data, a 2014 working environment survey counted 33,828 female workers with a high risk of exposure to reproduction-toxic factors at workplaces with five or more employees. The number accounted for 6.78% of the 499,194 total female workers in production positions. By occupation, the highest totals were found in leather, handbag, and shoe manufacturing, followed by electronics, textile manufacturing, and food manufacturing.

A Dec. 2016 report published by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea from a survey on the human rights of workers handling reproduction-toxic substances showed 27% of 406 female nurses who had handled such substances as having experienced difficulty conceiving; 22.8% as having experienced premature birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage; and 20.2% of having experienced menstrual irregularities. While the stillbirth and miscarriage rate was 13.9% for female workers enrolled in health insurance through their workplace between 2007 and 2015, an analysis for manufacturing in particular found high rates of 16.6% and 16.2% for timber, lumber products, and furniture manufacturing and for rubber and plastic manufacturing, respectively.

The semiconductor workers’ health and human rights watchdog group Banollim, which represented Kim in her application, released a statement on Mar. 19 expressing “hope that other workers suffering from the same condition will have the courage to carry on with having it recognized as an industrial accident.”

“Suitable government-level measures must be taken for toxic chemicals and other factors threatening the health and lives of semiconductor workers,” the group said.Kim In-ah, an occupational and environmental medicine professor at the Hanyang University College of Medicine, said, “At a time when the low birth rate is becoming a societal issue, the only way to ensure healthy and safe childbirth is through more proactive management and oversight of reproduction-toxic substances.”

“We need active government regulation to prevent female workers who are pregnant or of childbearing age from handling reproduction-toxic substances,”

Kim said.By Park Tae-woo, staff reporter

 

Original Article: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_business/787230.html