China's legislature is adjusting work safety laws to increase
punishments for those who offend and to ensure labor rights are
properly protected, an official said at the weekend.
Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety,
said lax regulations and inefficient enforcement of them had
contributed to the grim work safety statistics that had plagued the
country for years.
"Compared with punishments in other countries there's plenty
room for our legislature to revise the Criminal Law and other
laws," said Li. "We should be determined to use the severest
punishments to deal with offenders."
China's Criminal Law stipulates that those found guilty of work
safety crimes can be given a maximum seven-year prison jail
sentence and that the term in imprisonment can be reduced once an
offender is behind bars.
Companies who do not meet national work safety standards can be
fined a maximum of just 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) if accidents
"Compared with the work safety laws here those in developed
countries are much tougher," Li said. Life imprisonment is an
option if companies in the US violated labor laws or employee
In Australia coal mine owners and executives can be barred from
the business for life if accidents occur in their mines. There's
also a structure for big fines to be imposed.
"In a maturing market economy the legislature and the government
should set up a strict but fair legal framework for companies and
require them to protect labor rights," said Li.
According to a regulation on coal mine safety constituted by the
state council last year, mines that have been instructed to stop
production can be fined from one to a maximum five times of any
illegal income they've made. Currently criminal, mine safety, coal
and other related laws and regulations in China are being amended.
In addition to tightening up the legal system, Li said it is
equally important to improve safety awareness among the mostly
Huang Shengchu, president of China Coal Information Institute,
told China Daily that mining was dangerous and poorly paid
and only people such as farmers from the poorest regions chose to
work in what were, all too often, underground death traps.
"The most important thing is that poorly-educated
farmers-turned-miners receive training and guidance," said
Statistics indicate that nearly half of China's 5.5 million coal
miners are migrants from northern Sichuan, southern Shaanxi and the mountainous regions of Jiangxi, Fujian and Henan provinces.
Because of poor safety awareness and substandard equipment the
situation in the mines was as bad as ever, said Zhao Tiechui,
director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
University graduates are not willing to work in mines, said Li.
Statistics show that a total of 38,000 students graduated from
mining-related universities nationwide from 1999 to 2002, but less
then 10 percent of them actually worked in the industry.
"We're going to come up with more attractive measures to recruit
more students with mining qualifications and improve the manpower
of the sector," said Li.
(China Daily June 19, 2006)