China's lawmakers are considering toughening legislation to prevent workplace accidents after a spate of deaths among miners and other workers, state media reported on Wednesday.
The Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), is considering adopting a national law to prevent and treat occupational diseases, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
The committee is reviewing a draft of the proposed law.
Many members of the committee agreed the draft law should be passed as soon as possible so that millions of employees facing potential health risks at work can be protected from occupational diseases such as pneumoconiosis, or black lung.
Occupational diseases and accidents are the biggest threat to the health of the country's work force of nearly 700 million people, and are the leading cause of early retirement and disability, the report said.
Economic reform has not been followed by strict monitoring of workplace safety, the report pointed out.
While state-owned companies paid relatively greater attention to safety in the past, many private entrepreneurs ignore serious hazards in the quest for higher profits, government officials and labour watchdogs said.
The new law would place responsibility on the county and township-level governments to supervise labor safety, the report quoted lawmakers as saying.
However, critics have long said China is not short of labour laws. The problem is the laws and regulations are not enforced.
Migrant workers from poor rural areas are the most vulnerable since they are often exposed to dangerous working conditions and have the least power to protect themselves.
In the first half of this year, accidents at mines, factories and public places killed 47,000 people, according to official figures.
Mining accidents claimed some 3,000 deaths in the first six months of this year and nearly 5,000 last year.
Other leading killers are accidental poisonings, which are most commonly reported in shoe and garment factories and claim several hundred lives every year.
(China Daily 08/30/2001)