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MSD Rise in Korea Spurs Government Regulations

KOSHA, the Korean Occupational Health and Safety Agency, announced Monday that more than 150 of Hyundai Heavy Machinery’s employees were found to have musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). “We have examined Hyundai Heavy workers at the Ulsan plant and 156 were diagnosed with the problem as of last July,” a KOSHA official said in an October 15 article in the JoonAng Ilbo.

The news comes after seventy-six workers at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering also received treatment for MSDs earlier this year.

According to KOSHA, MSDs are on the rise in Korea, jumping from only 124 reported in 1998 to nearly 1,600 last year. Already in the first half of 2002, over 1,000 workers in Korea have been diagnosed with MSDs. KOSHA says that MSDs now account for 33 percent of on-the-job injury claims, and that 43 percent of the country’s patients with MSDs are workers at Korea’s auto and shipbuilding companies.

The Korean government has also announced that it will implement a new set of laws requiring manufacturers operating in the country to take preventive measures against work-related MSDs in their employees.

The laws will require companies to review workplace environments every three years and to take action against any problems found during reviews including “investing in ergonomic work spaces,” reported the JoonAng Ilbo article. Workers reporting symptoms of MSDs will be required to either be moved to a new job by management or be provided with medical treatment. Companies that violate the regulations could be subject to fines and possible prison terms.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, one of the world’s largest shipbuilding companies, employs approximately 27,000 workers building large-scale ships, engines and related parts, and is a sister company of Hyundai Motor Company. According to the company’s website, Hyundai Heavy Industries is listed with the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Largest Shipbuilding Company, and was ranked by Fortune Magazine as number one in the field of transportation equipment from 1992 to 1994.

Source: JoonAng Ilbo