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Posco vows to prioritize safety over productivity

Steelmaker CEO empowers workers to refuse unsafe work instructions

Posco CEO Choi Jeong-woo visits one of the steelmaker’s plants in January. (Posco)
Posco CEO Choi Jeong-woo visits one of the steelmaker’s plants in January. (Posco)


South Korea’s top steel giant Posco is vowing to put safety as its top priority, urging employees to reject unsafe working conditions, following a spate of deaths from industrial accidents in recent years.

During recent visits to the company’s steelworks in Pohang and Gwangyang, Chairman Choi Jeong-woo allocated most of his speeches to safety policies, the company said Wednesday.

“When workers are tasked with work where safety is not ensured or they feel physically or emotionally unsafe, they have a right to refuse work and this right must be protected,” Choi said.

“Those who slow down production while taking due safety measures should be rewarded, not reprimanded.”

Choi also urged staff to adopt a “fast track” reporting system for employees and those employed by subcontractors to file complaints to management about workplace safety-related incidents.

Portable security cameras, bodycams and other safety equipment will also be introduced to overcome safety blind spots.

At least 882 workers were killed last year in Korea as a result of industrial and work-related accidents, a rise of 27 deaths from 2019, official data showed.

The steel manufacturer’s latest gesture falls in line with the company’s road map to provide for the safety of the workers and to create a reliable, sustainable work environment to shore up its anticipated growth pace this year.

In December, Posco revealed plans to invest an additional 1 trillion won into safety initiatives over the next three years, extending its earlier announcement back in 2018 to spend 1.3 trillion won for such cause.

Posco logged an operating profit of 2.4 trillion won ($2.15 billion) and a net profit of 1.7 trillion won for 2020, respectively down 37.9 percent and 9.8 percent on-year, according to a regulatory filing last month.

But the company is expected to make a rebounding leap this year on the back of financial solvency and improved business portfolio, as well as general economic recovery.

After the initial market impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first half of last year, the company’s operating profit saw a recovery uptrend starting from the third quarter.

Market observers projected that the company’s operating profit for the current January-March period will come near or surpass the 1 trillion won-mark -- the first such case since the third quarter in 2019.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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