Health and safety in the workplace has been given a boost following a set of new rules issued by the State Council on Sunday.
Under the Regulation on Workplace Injuries, which will come into effect at the beginning of next year, employers will be legally obliged to ensure a safer working environment.
The regulation is also aimed at ensuring the victims of workplace accidents receive prompt and appropriate medical treatment and compensation. The new regulation is of great significance in protecting the rights and interests of employees.
It covers those employed by both private and public firms. In particular it affords a measure of protection previously not enjoyed by the mass of migrant workers, who were excluded from the social insurance system.
In line with the regulation, employers are required to pay an insurance premium in respect of all their employees, whether on short or long term contracts. It also lists in detail compensation standards and injury appraisal procedures.
The regulation comes at a time when both working conditions and safety awareness among the general public falls well short of what is acceptable. At present the overall situation, in this regard, offers little scope for optimism.
In the first quarter of this year, more than 250,000 workplace accidents were reported nationwide, of which 40 involved 10 or more casualties, according to official statistics. Whether those injured are properly compensated has, to date, been dependent on the individual company bosses and their firm's overall economic situation.
It is not uncommon for construction workers and miners with small private firms to get little or no compensation when injured.
Accident avoidance and precautions should be emphasized and greater efforts made to strengthen safety procedures. But in the event of an accident, employees should be given every support.
The country passed its first labor insurance regulation in 1951, which included a reference to workplace accidents. Dramatic changes have taken place in labor relations since that time. To keep pace with changing circumstances, an experimental regulation on workplace injuries was introduced in 1996 and promoted on a trial basis in some regions.
Drawing on the experiences of the past several years, the regulation announced on Sunday is welcomed.
A sound regulation to improve workplace safety is but a first step and the labor authorities are obliged to shoulder their responsibilities to ensure its proper implementation.
(China Daily May 6, 2003)