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Gov't Urged to Tackle Safety Problems

The government has been urged to tackle coal mine and workplace safety as at least seven fatal accidents, each claiming three lives, happen every day.

In a report to the 17th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), Senior legislator Li Tieying said China's Law on Work Safety should be steadfastly enforced.

"(We) propose the State Council and relevant departments ensure a drastic reduction in the number of gas explosion accidents in coal mines within two years... and resolve the problem of smaller mines within about three years," he said yesterday.

Li, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, made the remarks in his report to the standing committee's 17th meeting in Beijing.

In China, the NPC Standing Committee is entitled to supervise the work of the State Council -- China's cabinet.

Li headed a four-month tour to check on implementation of the 2002 Law on Work Safety, paying particular attention to the coal mine sector.

The findings were appalling, though overall, the statute has brought about positive results, the legislator said.

Up to last Sunday, 33 major accidents have killed 951 miners this year. The toll has more than doubled year-on-year, Li said.

Of the 29 tragedies which each killed at least 50 miners between 2002 and August 21 this year, 24 cases were blamed on gas blasts, making gas explosions the top killer in China's mines, he added.

"As shown by the experience of some collieries, gas explosions can be prevented by enhancing site management and implementing a production safety responsibility system," Li said.

According to Li, more money should be diverted to pay for new safety equipment and regimes in mines, where safety rules and regulations and a responsibility regime should be carried out to the letter, he said.

As smaller mines crank out one-third of China's coal production, but account for at least two-thirds of the country's mining deaths, Li said the State Council should completely reorganize the systems governing small mines.

No new small mines will be allowed to open before the standards are hammered out, he said.

The country should strike hard at the small, unsafe mines which try to reopen after being closed down, Li said. Almost every major accident was found to have been linked to corruption, so graft cases in relation to work safety must be severely handled, he said.

He said regulations regarding work injury insurance should be carried out as soon as possible. All high-risk sectors, including mining, must implement an insurance system by the end of next year.

In addition to having new recruits sign labour contracts with mine operators, enterprises should also strengthen training and reduce the stresses placed on workers, Li said.

(China Daily August 26, 2005)

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