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Work Safety Watchdog Outlines Year's Mission

This year China will set up a National Command Center for Work Safety-related Emergency Rescue Operations and build professional quick-response rescue teams, says an official with China’s State Administration of Work Safety.


Zhao Tiechui, vice administrator in charge of work safety nationwide, made the announcement at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office on February 24. He reviewed the work safety situation in 2003 and set out the priorities for 2004.


According to Zhao, 963,976 accidents of various types occurred nationwide in 2003, causing 136,340 fatalities. These two figures reflect declines of 10.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, from the previous year.


But industrial and mining enterprises saw an increase of 10.2 percent, to 15,597, in the number of fatal accidents. The total death toll stood at 2,383. The death toll from fires also climbed to 2,497. Off-train accidents were a major killer, with 8,530 people dying in 12,640 accidents.


The opening weeks of the current year did not bode well for improvements in the situation.


"Entering 2004, there were 27 major accidents. Of those, 26 occurred in public places and killed 382 people. The number of accidents with death tolls of more than 30 people is also on the rise, especially in non-work-related public areas," reported Zhao.

Not long before the press conference, another coal mine explosion in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province killed at least 24 workers. The accident occurred in a mine that had been shut down for safety violations but which then illegally resumed operations.


“It's a management problem,” said Zhao. “Such small, unlicensed coal mines are the biggest headaches and the key to preventing more accidents and deaths. Ignoring work safety is overlooking the lives and fundamental interests of the people and cannot be allowed by the law."

The Chinese government has developed eight measures to quell the number of work-related accidents. According to Zhao, "Work safety supervision will no longer just be an individual responsibility but will also have the law behind it. Occasional inspections will become standardized, and the focus will change from consequences for accidents to preventative measures. In addition, we'll launch a series of promotional campaigns to enhance public awareness of work safety."

Zhao Tiechui said that renewed pledges of vigilance and condemnation following every accident are not enough. He called for mass participation in strengthening work safety and in building a sound rescue system in event of emergencies.


The central government will soon upgrade compensation criteria, forcing enterprises and local governments to invest more in work safety.


Overall, China is looking for a 2.5 percent year-on-year reduction in the death toll from accidents in 2004. Key sectors will be targeted for improvement, including mines, road and water traffic, dangerous chemicals, blasting materials for civil use, fireworks, and firefighting in crowded public areas.


(China.org.cn February 24, 2004)

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