Coal miners working in northern China's Shanxi Province will rotate on four six-hour shifts daily for five days a week starting this year, official Xinhua News Agency reports on Wednesday.
The previous arrangement of three shifts of eight hours a day, which has been in practice for a long time, will be terminated, according to the newly promulgated provincial regulation on the operation standards of coal mining enterprises.
The provincial bureau of coal industry says that with the eight-hour working shifts, it typically takes ten hours from the time a miner gets down to the mine and comes back again at the end of the shift.
The shift will be eleven hours if taking into account the time for pre-shift meetings and after-shift showers. Some small coal mines even operate on two shifts of twelve hours each. The extended shifts and hard labor naturally lead to on-work exhaustion, which greatly increases the likelihood of coal mining accidents, the report says.
Besides the change of work shifts, the regulation also designates the minimum wages for underground miners and stipulates that the special hardship allowances for them must be paid out in full and on time.
The regulation also requires coal mining enterprises to provide dormitories for single miners and their bathhouses, canteens and meals must meet hygiene standards.
Over thirty coal mines in the provincial capital city of Taiyuan have already begun to follow the new regulation, the report says.
China has been striving to improve work safety in its accident-prone coal mines. But accidents were still frequent as enforcement was lax and mine owners pushed production beyond safety limits to earn higher profits.
A gas explosion in early December last year killed 105 miners in a coal mine in Shanxi, China's largest coal producing province.
(CRI January 10, 2008)