Blowing the whistle “How did I blackmail them?”
It is said the worst moment of life naturally comes in silence. It was 2012. One Hyundai Heavy Industry (refer to as HHI below) subcontractor collapsed with a heart attack at work. They needed an ambulance urgently but his company didn’t call 119 as they should do but transferred the worker to a hospital by a company truck.
What happened as a result? He died before his arrival at the hospital. The worst thing happened, dying on a truck due to the lack of emergency action.
It is common practice at shipyards not calling 119 when workers are injured. Nobody questions this but close their eyes with silence.  When 3 workers fell into the sea due to scaffold collapsed in 2014, the company didn’t call 119 and one of them was found dead.
The reason why companies are not calling 119 is to conceal industrial accidents. If they call 119, it is recorded as injured on the job. Avoiding this is the first step of industrial accident concealment. People in this industry say it can be concealed as long as it is not recorded and that is why injured workers are transferred by company truck, manager’s car or motorbike other than an ambulance.
What methods are used to hide the truth? interviewed one of HHI subcontracting company managers with difficulty, who has worked in shipyard industry over 30 years and 7 years at his present company. He was in charge for basically ‘everything’.
Manager A explained how HHI subcontracting company’s hide industrial accidents and why in detail. The news has always been “someone said..” but the manager gave in depth description of what has happened. This is first time HHI subcontracting manager was interviewed with the media. The interview as follows;
“I also blackmailed and appealed to them not to apply for the industrial accident compensation insurance (refer to as IACI below)”
Pressian: Have you ever directly stopped any injured workers applying for the IACI while working as a subcontracting company manager?
A: Yes, I have several times over 7 years. One time, one worker crashed his bicycle on his way to work and his knee bursa was ruptured. He was going to apply for the IACI but I stopped him. There are many others. I blackmailed and appealed to them not to apply for the IACI.
Pressian: I’ve heard subcontracting companies take measures when injured workers go to a hospital.
A: It’s true. Surely injured ones go to a hospital. Because there are so many work injuries, subcontracting companies usually designate a certain hospital to refer their people. We refer the injured worker first then, make a call to an administration director of the hospital.
Pressian: Why do you call a hospital administration director? It doesn’t sound like asking them to take good care of him.
A: It is important to take primary measures to stop process in the industrial accident compensation. It shouldn’t be recorded as ‘occupational injury’. If recorded, it’s irreversible. As per protocol, any injuries at work should be considered as industrial accident and it should go through the IACI process whether individuals want or not. We call a hospital administration director to stop this.
Pressian: So, does that mean you call and ask them to fake the medical record as ‘non-work related’ injuries by referring your workers to a designated hospital?
A: We simply say ‘Prepare it’ to them and they take care of it. They fake the record that the worker was injured outside of work. 
Pressian: Isn’t it illegal? How is it possible? Moreover, they will go to hospital with a work clothes on. I can’t understand how they record “injured outside of work” in that circumstance. Why would they fake it for you?
A: Hospitals welcome subcontracting companies. Our designated hospital is the same. Patients are their income in the hospital point of view, so the more patients the more profit. Subcontracting companies are seen as money to them. Many get injured as the working environment is poor so many hospitals lobby subcontracting companies through their hospital administration directors asking us to designate their hospitals to treat.
Pressian: How do they lobby?
A: Fruit box, gift vouchers or wines are sent to subcontracting company owners and managers on New year or Thanks giving day. Often, managers receive entertainment treats from hospital administration directors.
“We will refer our injured ones to you and don’t let them receive IACI”
Pressian: Are hospitals’ lobbying to attract more patients to their hospitals?
A: Yes, it’s basically a ‘customer-client’ relationship so hospitals can’t help listen to what subcontracting companies ask. It is important for us not processing the IACI. Hospitals readily accept when we suggest ‘we will refer our people to your hospital and you should take care of the IACI. Because whatever the payment method is, like though the IACI or company or patient, hospitals can make profit as long as they are paid.
Pressian: But they are coming to hospitals having work clothes on. It may not be easy to write injured outside of worksite. Workers may also explain to the physician how they were injured.
A: Doctors should ask how patients were injured but it’s not a problem as it is already plotted. 100% patients wearing work clothes were hurt at work. Maybe only 1-2 out of 100 would be injured on the way home and most are work-related but doctors don’t question about it.
Even though he or she does, it’s not easy for the injured person to tell the truth because  company manager or safety staff often accompanies the injured worker to the hospital. When a doctor asks ‘how did you get injured?’, those company managers answer ‘it was a bicycle accident outside, hurt outside of the factory’ on behalf of the worker without giving time for workers to answer. 
Pressian: Can’t the injured person apply for IACI individually although the hospital record is false?
A: True, that’s why we blackmail and beg them at our best to stop applying for IACI so that we can conceal the incident. Once the hospital record is arranged, a subcontracting company manager visits injured worker to see how it goes and sound him or she out by saying ‘It doesn’t look too bad at all’. If the injured one insists to apply for IACI, we blackmail and beg.
Pressian: How do you blackmail?
A: We say something workers can abide by. We scold them to just accept the company’s suggestion (hospital bill paid by the company) rather than being dismissed after applying for IACI. Most accept. Often, workers pay hospital bills out of their pockets.
It’s because those subcontractors who are fingered as someone to watch won’t be able to get a job anywhere else so they agree.
“We can’t help but to hide industrial accidents to please shipyards”
Pressian: Why do subcontracting companies stop their workers applying for IACI? Is this because subcontracting companies are not joining IACI?
A: We do. We must join IACI regardless. If not, it’s against law so the subcontracting company should take full responsibility. Even if a subcontracting company does not join IACI, injured workers are compensated regardless and the subcontracting company will be fined afterwards.
Pressian: Then, why do you stop them so hard applying for IACI?
A: If industrial accidents frequently occur, the company will be under special supervision by the labor bureau and pointed out with many issues. Subcontracting companies are too poor to correct all those pointed out issues and can almost become bankrupt to improve. This is why we are trying to avoid IACI.
More fundamentally, subcontracting companies walk on “eggshells” of the shipyard owners. We cannot avoid HHI’s influence. Although subcontracting companies are joining IACI independently, we are under HHI’s management as a part of group. HHI’s A department, for instance, manages 5 subcontracting companies and problems begin from this. Let’s say there was an industrial accident at one of “A”’s department managed subcontracting companies. Then, it affects A department as well. If the director of A department is due for a promotion, he or she will be denied if an injury is reported. 
All subcontracting companies are aware of promotions. When the promotion season comes, they voluntarily hide industrial accidents because of what actions will be taken against them if managing directors are refused promotions because of them. For example, the number of contract. Subcontracting companies earn livelihood for a month or year by the amount of contracts with a shipyard and they would starve without contracts. Small margined contract is another problem. This is why subcontracting companies walk carefully around shipyard owner. It is a matter of survival.
Pressian: As a result, do you mean you hide industrial accidents to look good to shipyard directors? Then, are you free of concealing accidents if you work with nice directors or it’s not a promotion period?
A: No. Shipyard owners themselves don’t want industrial accidents. If industrial accidents occur frequently, politicians and labor bureau will pay attention to HHI and they will keep an eye on HHI. HHI doesn’t want that so they take all measure to stop this.
Pressian: It is unavoidable to stop attention to companies where many occupational injuries occur. After 8 workers were killed during 2 months on site in 2014, HHI had to undergo a parliamentary inspection and special supervision by labor bureau. 
A: Moreover, HHI penalizes subcontracting companies which allows their workers’ IACI application, typically non-contract renewal. Subcontracting companies renew their contracts every year with shipyards. Standards for renewal are performance and evaluation rate.
Shipyard owners determine the contract renewal by their evaluation tools. It’s a ranking system. Subcontracting companies with industrial accidents are penalized so those companies are disadvantaged in renewal.
So wouldn’t subcontracting companies conceal accidents? That’s why we stop our workers applying for IACI.
Pressian: It seems that HHI believes they can reduce the industrial accident rate by penalizing subcontracting companies. However, fundamental solutions are setting safety facilities up in the yard and taking safety measures.
A: That’s right. Without those safety actions, they pass responsibilities onto subcontracting companies. However, how can those poor subcontracting companies install drop sheet and safety fence? In reality, it’s impossible.
“We have to ‘read’ HHI’s mind”
Pressian: Through your story, it sounds like subcontracting companies are ‘voluntarily’ concealing industrial incidents. Have you even been directed to do so by HHI?
A: Frequently asked. The only thing is they don’t directly instruct us to ‘conceal’. If there is an industrial accident, they don’t openly say ‘conceal’.
Pressian: Invisible pressure instead?
A: Yes. We are supposed to report all industrial incidents to shipyard owners when they occur. Managers, directors, executives they all want to be informed so subcontracting company’s managers and directors continuously report the progress such as ‘where the incident occurred, how the patient’s condition is and which hospital he/she was admitted etc. We have to read HHI’s mind’.
Pression: ‘Be quick in sensing a situation’?
A: Yes. Then, what would you say? Won’t you say ‘the patient is absolutely fine’? They give an invisible pressure but it appears as though HHI did not push anything if the incident becomes an issue. The subcontracting company gets screwed up.
Pressian: They may give pressure in various ways even other than industrial accidents.
A: In the nature of work, subcontracting companies and shipyard management have regular meetings. They often humiliate subcontracting company managers. When a subcontracting company manager present ‘This will be proceed with blah blah’, a shipyard manager says ‘What’s the point doing that while you have many injuries..’. Whichever subcontracting company allows their workers’ IACI is hated.
They also compare other subcontracting companies and blame ‘this company worked over 3 million hours incident free but why do you have 2 incidents?’ hurting subcontracting managers’ pride. It’s the way they push subcontracting companies to conceal incidents on their own by humiliating them in public. Everyone knows the company with 3 million hour “incident free” was not by following safety rules but by hiding incidents. 
Pressian: So, pointing out ‘why did these incidents happened?’ means ‘Stop your workers applying IACI’?
A: For example, injured workers on site are still being transferred by a company truck. Subcontractor companies have their own trucks and they are moving injured ones with it. However, the shipyard sent an official letter ‘Don’t transfer injured workers by a truck’ to not to do it as it became an issue. It has been sent several times. Industrial accident concealment is the same. They send a letter asking to stop concealing but who would listen to it? The one who follows the instruction is a fool. If someone does, it definitely becomes a problem. Don’t all know why they send us official letters? We all know and hush up.
Pressian: It looks like HHI only shows off words in safety. They keep their eyes closed and ask responsibility to subcontracting companies if the problem comes to the surface. The problem is that the vicious circle is being repeated. Unless this structure changes, effort to conceal industrial incidents would not stop. Thank you for your time.

Front page

Preface of   Click

Table of Contents

1. Fall to sea! Why didn’t they call 119 ?  click 

2. “Wish I could remove the word of ‘suicide’ covered with my husband” click 

3. 13 deaths within a year at the ‘death factory’… what happened? click

4. [Infographic] People in the ‘hell ship’, how were they killed? click

5. ‘Shipyard ghost story’, the same death in 2014 as 1994 again? click

6. Head opened, leg broken.. No Worker’s Compensation! click

7. Blowing the whistle “How did I blackmail them?” click

8. ‘Smashing’ subcontracting companies, ‘choking’ workers  click

9. “Occupational injury?” You didn’t call 119, did you?  click

10. “Nobody stops running on a single log bridge” click

11. “What is should be like… what it really is like”   click

12. ‘Old’ blacklist, still valid?  click

13. “Jeong Mong-joon is coming to HHI to collect bills”  click

14. Pyramid contract ‘Mul-yang team’, causes death   click

15. Norwegian Press reported ‘Hyundai Heavy Industry Worker’s fatality’… 

     “Shocking information” click