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Technological Innovation a Cure for Workplace Mishaps
China needs to embrace technological innovation if it is to reverse the unsatisfactory state of workplace health and safety, said Wang Xianzheng, head of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS).

"The pressure for technological innovations in work safety is increasing all the time," Wang said at an awards ceremony honoring scientists in the field Monday.

China lags far behind developed countries in the study and application of work safety inventions, Wang said. The number of workplace accidents in China remains high, with severe injuries a common problem.

Some 174,065 workplace and traffic accidents occurred in the first two months of this year, killing more than 21,000 workers, according to SAWS statistics.

In China, many privately owned mines and enterprises are poorly equipped due to a lack of investment in and awareness of the need for safe workplaces, Wang noted.

Many staff in privately owned enterprises also know nothing about work safety and have received no occupational health training, the official noted.

On March 22, a fatal gas explosion at a coal mine in North China's Shanxi Province killed 65 miners, according to SAWS. Seven miners are still missing.

Initial investigations indicated that gas accumulation and poor ventilation led to the accident.

The operator of the gas monitoring system for the mine allegedly lacked basic knowledge of work safety practices and made the wrong decision when power was suddenly cut, ignoring the dangers of gas accumulation, the official said.

It was reported that one of the underground miners also tried to light a cigarette, setting off the blast, according to Wang.

There was an urgent need to address such deficiencies through improved training and technology.

But Wang said that only about 15 per cent of technological innovations in China reached the marketplace, a lower commercialization rate than in many developed countries and regions.

"The slow pace of transforming technological innovations into commercial profits has impeded the development of work safety in China," Wang said.

Cai Meifeng, a professor with the Beijing University of Science and Technology, said: "As the workplace becomes more complicated, the need for better work safety science and technology increases."

Cai won first prize at Monday's award ceremony.

Technicians and scientists should study and apply new theories and technologies to resolve the key problems in workplace safety, Cai said.

He added that information networks and early warning systems to highlight risks of accidents should be established to improve work safety.

(China Daily April 8, 2003)

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