Serious Accidents Punishment Act in Effect from January 27, 2022
On January 8, 2021, the Korean National Assembly passed the Serious Accident
Punishment Act (“SAPA”), which imposes criminal liability on individuals and entities responsible for “serious accidents”.
Under SAPA, the term “serious accident” encompasses not only accidents at
industrial sites (e.g., at factories or construction sites), but also “public” disasters caused by defects in the design, manufacture, installation and management of products, product ingredients or public facilities/transportation.
SAPA imposes criminal liability against (i) business owners or executives (as defined by the law) who fail to ensure the safety of their business operations and (ii) businesses or institutions who fail their supervisory duties.
In case of willful misconduct or gross negligence, SAPA also imposes punitive
damages of up to five times the actual damages. SAPA is a very broad law, although the details still need to be worked out through the lower regulations to be announced.
SAPA seeks to secure the safety and health of workers in the workplace or the general public by holding the top decision maker of the business accountable for "serious accidents."
The responsibilities of employers and responsible management personnel under the SAPA include establishing a safety and health management system that covers workforce and budgetary issues, implementing necessary plans to prevent recurrence of serious accidents and taking necessary measures to ensure compliance with relevant safety and health-related laws.