With the new SAPA law taking Korea by storm, Prof. Park Chan-sik of Chung-Ang University, who has dedicated his career to promoting construction safety, talks about SAPA and solutions that minimize accidents in construction.
Q: Could you explain to us briefly what the Serious Accidents Punishment Act (SAPA) of Korea is?
Prof. Park: Decades ago, the UK came up with the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 to protect employees from work-related accidents. Today, the accident rate in the UK is 1/10 of that in Korea. Korea’s accident rate is 5x higher than that of Japan or Germany. Despite the Korean economy being the 10th largest in the world, our death by accident rate is at the bottom of OECD countries. It is high time that the country is prioritizing the health and safety of workers. The SAPA is aiming to do just that by pushing the responsibility of workplace safety to the owners and managers and holding them accountable for any negligence.
Q: What is the SAPA’s significance to the construction industry?
For construction companies, the absolute, number one social responsibility of companies should be safety. But when you look at the top KPIs of construction companies, their top three answers are cost, speed, and quality. Safety is at the bottom. With the SAPA law in place, companies will now be more careful because there are real people that can now be blamed in case of accidents. Owners and managers are now incentivized to educate their workers about safety, ensure that the construction sites follow safety measures at all times, and create systems to minimize the risk of accidents and address safety hazards.
Q: How does a solution like Beamo play a vital role in construction safety?
Prof. Park: A solution like Beamo’s digital twin solution would be essential so that all these components may work together to provide a viable solution that seeks to prevent accidents, rather than punish violators. 40% of accidents can actually be detected beforehand. But with the use of Beamo for remote management of sites, the remaining 60% of accidents that have been previously undetectable can also be prevented.
In addition, you can also use Beamo for education purposes. Before now, no one actually read the safety manuals, so delivering information was always a problem. But with Beamo, workers can have direct access to this information and safety materials.
Bonus Q: Are there not a lot of solutions that focus on health and safety in construction?
Prof. Park: People in the field don’t know that this kind of solution like Beamo even exists. We need to promote remote site management solutions, especially now that a lot of these construction managers are panicking. Nobody wants to pay fines or worse, go to prison. But not all companies have the resources to hire a new person to be Chief Safety Officer and a dedicated team. But with the use of AI and technology, they can extend their resources to manage the safety conditions of their workplaces. Eventually, the future is to have everything automated and robotized to also get rid of risks caused by human errors.