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Fewer accidents but work safety still a worry
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Production safety standards are still not up to the mark despite a drop in the number of workplace accidents and deaths in the first 11 months of this year, China's top safety watchdog said Sunday.

State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said about 457,000 accidents were reported from January to November, a year-on-year decrease of 22.4 percent. The number of accident deaths too fell, too, to 88,923, a year-on-year drop of 14 percent.

Eighty-three serious accidents, in each of which 10 or more people were killed, claimed a total of 1,380 lives, SAWS Deputy Director Wang Xianzheng told a forum.

But the severity of the situation hasn't changed despite the drops, he said. "The total number of accidents remains high, and serious accidents have been frequent."

Also, frequent accidents are still being reported from certain fields, with the situation in some regions being "less than stable", Wang said. For instance, despite a 22.7 percent fall in the number of deaths in the mining sector, fatal accidents have persisted.

Three major mine accidents occurred in Shanxi Province alone this year, claiming 159 lives.

The country has taken unprecedented legal and disciplinary steps in recent years to ensure work safety, and Wang sounded confident of improving things, though it would take some time.

Since the enactment of the Work Safety Law five years ago, 26 provincial legislative committees and local governments have issued relevant regulations. And more than 50 administrative State Council regulations cover various aspects of workplace safety today.

Moreover, several laws, including the mine safety law, the coal law and coal mine safety inspection regulations, are scheduled for revision next year, when the long-awaited emergency regulations on work safety, too, is expected to be drafted, said Zhang Qiong, a deputy director in the State Council's legislative affairs office.

The Communist Party of China's disciplinary watchdog released a 10-point document last week, imposing stricter penalties on those failing to maintain safety in workplaces.

The rules say officials could be demoted, sacked or expelled from the CPC if they take advantage of their posts to influence purchase, public biddings or accident probes. Those who try to save people responsible for accidents, too, face severe punishment.

Thanks to these efforts, Wang said China's earlier goal of establishing a relatively comprehensive work safety monitoring scheme by 2007 "is completely achievable".

(China Daily December 24, 2007)

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