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Training, Insurance to Protect Worker Safety

Workers at nearly 8,000 construction sites in Shanghai were asked to put down their tools for an hour to undergo safety training on Thursday.

The local government ordered the sessions in response to several deadly construction accidents over the past few days. Such accidents have killed eight people in the city this month alone.

The government also vowed to conduct a thorough investigation of safety problems at major construction sites around the city.

"The accidents reflect the carelessness of construction managers and the loopholes in our supervision system, particularly in rural areas," Sun Jianping, deputy director of the Shanghai Construction and Transport Commission, said on Thursday.

There have been 27 construction accidents in the city so far this year, the majority being falls from buildings or scaffolding and electric shocks. The number represents an increase of 50 percent from the same period last year, and the accidents have led to eight deaths, all during April.

On April 19, a two-story-high scaffolding around a building in the Qingcun Town economic development zone on in Fengxian District collapsed, killing two workers and injuring four others.

On April 17, the roof collapsed on a two-story dormitory building belonging to the Fusheng Compressor Factory in Songjiang District, killing one worker and injuring 13 others.

Commission officials said they will impose tougher punishments on construction companies that fail to take proper safety measure to protect their workers, but they did not offer any specifics.

Nationwide, employers in high-risk sectors, including coal mines, will now be required to carry injury insurance for their workers.

Social security officials said that safety licenses, which are necessary for any high-risk company to operate, will be denied to enterprises that lack the compulsory insurance.

Sun Zhi, an insurance official with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS), told China Daily that the MLSS and the State Administration of Work Safety are jointly implementing the measure.

Before the implementation of the new policy, employees in high-risk sectors -- often migrant workers -- were not covered by any standard workers' compensation insurance. Despite measures adopted by some local governments, many disputes arose when accidents took place.

Now employers must pay injury insurance premiums and tell their employees about the insurance, said Sun.

The policy will cover various types of injuries, including those suffered during business trips and vehicle accidents, injuries occurring on the way to or from work, and those incurred in the course of emergency rescue operations.

By the end of March, injury insurance covered a total of 70.1 million workers. The MLSS vowed that 75 million workers would be covered by the end of the year.

There are an estimated 130 million migrant workers nationwide, employed mainly in the construction, mining and manufacturing sectors.

(Shanghai Daily, China Daily April 22, 2005)

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