Speech by Li Yizhong, Minister of the State Administration of Work Safety

Jan 22, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

Today, together with the Ministry of Supervision, SAWS announces the results of investigation and handling of the five serious and extremely serious accidents concluded by the State Council accident investigation teams.

The five accidents are: the extremely serious bridge collapse accident over Dixituo River in Fenghuang County of Hunan Province on August 13, 2007, with 64 fatalities; the serious methane explosion accident at Pudeng Coalmine in Puxian County of Linfen City of Shanxi Province on May 5, 2007, with 28 fatalities; the extremely serious steel ladle capsizal accident at Qinghe Special Steel Factory in Tieling of Liaoning Province on April 18, 2007, with 31 fatalities; the extremely serious fire accident at Nanshan Coalmine in Wangyu Township of Lingshi County in Jinzhong City of Shanxi Province on November 22, 2006, with 34 fatalities; and the extremely serious road traffic black powder explosion accident in Shangrao of Jiangxi Province on March 17, 2005, with 31 fatalities. After the accidents happened, the local governments organized emergency rescue in a timely manner to reduce the losses, and were supportive and cooperative to the accident investigation. These five accidents caused a total death of 189 people, with a direct economic loss of 76.7624 million yuan. These accidents have been ascertained through investigation to be major liability accidents. The accident investigation reports have been approved by the State Council successively, and timely notification has been made to the provincial people's governments for enforcement. The relevant information concerning the investigation and handling has already been provided to you in the handouts.

The investigation results of the five major accidents show that the organizations where these accidents occurred had serious problems in work safety and some localities and enterprises failed to properly implement the work safety guidelines, policies and measures.

First, some enterprises and business owners related to the accidents conducted illegal production in defiance of law. 3 out of the 5 accidents fall into this category. Pudeng Coalmine in Linfen City of Shanxi Province illegally organized mining beyond the approved areas through fraud and deception. The mine mined 2,437 tons of coal in a stealthy manner, with an illegal income of 13.15 million yuan, and resulted in a destruction of 26,000 tons of mineral reserves. The north section of the mine ran mining operations normally to cheat the inspectors, while the south section used developing method to substitute conventional mining, operating with several headings at the same time. It had one original and one falsified mine map, with the original one used for arranging production, while the falsified one was used for cheating the inspectors. The mining panel beyond the approved areas was temporarily sealed during the inspection period, and opened for production once there was no inspection. The Nanshan Coalmine in Lingshi County of Shanxi Province illegally purchased and stored in the same storage room over 200 boxes of anfo explosives and 3 boxes of detonators in violation of regulations. Due to poor ventilation and moisture as caused by the accumulated water in the storage room, the chlorate and ammonium nitrate decomposed and created heat which led to the spontaneous combustion of the explosives. In the case of the Shangrao road traffic accident in Jiangxi Province , the truck hit was loaded with explosive goods in violation of the regulations. The 3 people with Xie Shuda being the main liable person illegally purchased and transported black powder. The mine owners and the people concerned fled and hid following the above 3 accidents but were later arrested for justice.

Second, the enterprises related to the accidents were exposed to serious hazards due to poor safety management. The Pudeng Coalmine in Linfen City of Shanxi Province used developing method to substitute conventional mining for a long period of time, with poor labor organization, ventilation system, and gas, coal dust and fire control. There were 329 employees at the mine, but only 97 signed labor contracts. With a sign at the pit mouth indicating a limit of 44 people to work underground per shift, there were 125 people actually working underground on the shift when the accident occurred. With series ventilation underground, production activities in many places were running under little or even no airflow. Motor tricycles without explosive-proof quality were used underground. The construction company for Hunan Dixituo River Bridge , the No. 7 Company of Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group, arbitrarily modified the original construction plan of the main arch ring, maltreated materials and stones in violation of the regulations, with poor bricking up, and started framework construction even before the main arch reached the designed capacity. The steel-making workshop of Liaoning Qinghe Special Steel Factory had no standard technical design, and did not choose the special foundry crane as required. The crane driver did not have the operation license as needed for special operation workers. A tools stocking room was established under the vacuum stove platform in violation of the regulations, which also served as the shift turnover room, and led to the tragic deaths of all shift turnover people.

Third, some intermediary agencies and supervision institutions failed to fulfill their responsibilities, leaving serious hazards that gave rise to the accidents. When the Liaoning Tieling City Special Equipment Supervision and Inspection Institute was inspecting the crane used for lifting the steel ladle of the Qinghe Special Steel Factory, it did not verify whether the manufacturing company was qualified for crane manufacturing. Even though the technical documents were incomplete, and no inspection had been conducted to the protection level of the electrically controlled equipment, a qualification report was issued to the crane on completion checks. In disregard for the fact that the production line and auxiliary facilities of the Qinghe Special Steel Factory are exposed to serious safety hazards, Liaoning Petroleum-Chemical Industry Planning & Design Institute made the conclusion that the safety situation of the plant basically met the related State regulations and standards. The supervision company for the Hunan TuoJiang Bridge Construction Project, Hunan Jinqu Communications Consulting & Supervision Company failed to stop the construction company's arbitrary modification to the construction plan, and signed “qualified” on the bricking-up quality inspection form, the inspection application approval form, and construction process quality inspection form, when they had no knowledge of the arch strength.

Fourth, some local governments and watchdogs failed to exercise supervision effectively, and a handful of people even bent the law for selfish ends. Behind the 5 accidents there were loopholes in safety supervision and inspection, and even corruption problems such as trading power for money. During the initiation and approval process for the Tuojiang Bridge Construction Project, the Government of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, in violation of the related regulations, asked the Planning Committee and the Communications Bureau of the Prefecture to, via means of fraud and deception, post-register and ante dated sign the related documents; the project had been instructed to expedite the process of its construction, so as to be considered as a gift for the Prefecture's anniversary celebration. It has been initially ascertained that the liable persons from the related departments of the Prefecture and Fengda Company accepted bribes. The related staff from Kecheng Branch Station of Puxian Coal Industry Bureau of Linfen City of Shanxi Province accepted money and gifts from the mine management during the inspection on production resumption of the Pudeng Coalmine, and failed to discover the safety hazards, such as the long existing law-braking production, outnumbered workers underground, mining beyond approved areas, as well as the usage of non explosive proof motor tricycle. The dispatched coal mine inspectors from the coal industry bureau of the county accepted money from the mine as well. They helped the mine management keep a “good” relationship with the competent authorities, and also helped them with relevant licenses and documents.

After the accidents, the related localities and departments and SAWS all issued circulars in a timely manner, requiring the respective areas and industries to learn the lessons by analogy, as to earnestly check and treat safety hazards, implement the improvement measures, and prevent the recurrence of similar accidents. Regarding the handling of the related liable persons, the investigation teams gave suggestions, and the related local governments are now dealing with the cases in accordance with the reply of the State Council. The related persons that should be transferred to judicial organs for criminal liabilities are now going through judicial procedures. The General Manager and Vice General Manager of the Pudeng Coalmine in Puxian County of Linfen City of Shanxi Province have been sentenced to life in prison, while the Chairman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The liable persons for the Shangrao “March 17” road traffic black powder explosion accident in Jiangxi Province and some of the liable persons for the Lingshi “November 12” Coalmine fire accident have already been sentenced to imprisonment.

As of June 1, 2007, the Regulations on Reporting, Investigation, and Handling of Accidents Disrupting Production Safety by the State Council came into force. In October 2007, a joint meeting at the ministerial level was established over coordination and communication on liability ascertaining of major work-related accidents, as led by the Ministry of Supervision and participated by the Supreme People's Court, The Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice and SAWS. Today, we announce the investigation and handling results of the 5 accidents, and wish to subject them to public and media scrutiny, which will contribute to the timely, fair and efficient investigation and handling of the accidents disrupting production safety, and promote work safety through lessons we have learned from the accidents.

The year 2008 has been determined as the “Hazards Control Year” by the State Council Work Safety Committee. In the middle of January, the State Council Televised Meeting on Work Safety and the National Work Safety Meeting were convened, which planned the work to be done for hazard control. The most serious hazards give way to major accidents. Only when a hazard has been controlled can we avoid an accident and be safer. We will continue to firmly rely on the local governments, all departments, and various organizations, and rely on the support from all walks of life to work earnestly and persistently. We will spare no efforts to screen and treat the hazards, and resolutely prevent and curb the occurrence of major accidents, so as to promote the steady improvement of the work safety situation throughout the nation, and ensure the safety of lives and property of the people.

Thank you.