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Strict Punishment for Safety Violations
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Officials and employees held responsible for safety violations will be punishment after the country Wednesday promulgated its first regulation detailing punishment to match their offences.

The regulation jointly issued by the Ministry of Supervision and the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) specifies misdeeds and corresponding disciplinary and administrative penalties.

Being particularly targeted are those whose corrupt deeds lead to loss of life or limb in workplace accidents, said Li Yizhong, head of SAWS. Corruption is seen as a major contributing factor to the rising number of accidents.

In October, there was a 26.1 percent rise in coal mine accidents and a 44.4 percent rise in related deaths from the previous month.

A spate of serious colliery accidents has rattled the country this month, notably a gas explosion in a Shanxi coal mine that killed 47 miners.

Government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) who are found culpable will be given a warning or a written censure, demoted or dismissed while serious cases will be referred to prosecutors.

The regulation, which comes into immediate effect, specifies 25 misdeeds by public servants and 18 by SOE employees that invite punishment.

Among them are failing or refusing to implement national safety policies or laws; granting approval to operators who have not taken requisite safety measures; and concealing, lying about or delaying accident reports.

The regulation will also serve as reference when meting out punishment for non-government employees who violate safety laws.

Li stressed that corruption is a "shocking" phenomenon behind many accidents.

Chen Changzhi, vice-minister of the Ministry of Supervision, said that five of the 11 serious workplace accidents investigated last year involved corruption.

He cited two accidents as examples: one, a gas explosion in a coal mine in Wayaobao, Yan'an, Shaanxi Province on April 29 last year, killed 32 miners; and the other, water flooding in a coal mine in Zuoyun, Datong, Shanxi Province, drowning 56 workers.

"Some local government officials ignore people's lives," Chen said.

Chen added that thorough inspections would be conducted along with the regulation's implementation.

To curb rampant accidents, a campaign was launched last year to shut down the numerous small coal mines that fail to meet safety standards. Almost 70 percent of accidents occur in small mines, Li said.

By the end of April this year, the government had closed 5,931 small coal mines, and another 2,651 were being shut down.

SAWS figures show that this year 625 people lost their lives in 33 coal mine accidents by November 19.

Crime and punishment

Government officials will face warnings, demotions, dismissal or prosecution for transgressions in production safety. Major punishable acts include:

approving projects that do not meet safety requirements;

failing to tackle unsafe production activities;

hindering the procurement of safety equipment and facilities;

failing to deal with identified major hazards that later lead to accidents;

covering up production accidents, failure to provide true reports or delaying reports of production accidents;

obstructing investigations into production accidents;

holding stakes, personally or through family members, in coal mines or running business related to production safety; and

allowing businesses to continue operation after their licenses have been revoked or they have been ordered to stop production.

(China Daily November 23, 2006)

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