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Dangerous Workplaces Face New Penalties
China needs to improve its legal system and carry out more inspections to improve its workplace safety record, a senior official said Tuesday.

"A more comprehensive legal system addressing workplace safety will take shape in the next two to three years," Shi Shaohua, a supervision commissioner with the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said.

From July 1 this year, penalties will apply to people who break work safety laws. A new regulation follows the implementation of China's first work safety law on November 1 last year, Shi said.

The new regulation is also the first adopted by the SAWS since it was directly affiliated to the State Council early this year, he added.

Administrative penalties, including disciplinary warnings, fines, confiscation of assets, detention, and cancellation of business licences, will be imposed on those who breach the regulation.

Workplace safety in China has improved during the past several years, but there are still many challenges ahead, said SAWS head Wang Xianzheng at a recent conference.

He said workplace injuries and deaths could be reduced by creating a long-term, effective safety administrative system.

During the first five months of 2003, a total of 48,504 people were killed in nearly 385,000 workplace accidents.

The figures dropped 7.8 percent and 13.9 percent respectively on a year-on-year basis, SAWS statistics indicated.

The SAWS will produce scores of rules on workplace safety, such as reporting systems and emergency rescue procedures.

"Full implementation of work safety laws and regulations, and an improvement in public awareness and concern about work safety, is necessary for the situation to improve," Shi said.

He said China had set up supervision departments to ensure workplaces abide by the new laws and regulations.

More than 290 work safety supervision departments have been established in 441 areas above the city level during the past three years.

In some places, authorities monitor workplace safety issues at provincial, city, county and township levels.

Moreover, the nation has also set up 20 independent coal mine safety supervision bureaux at the provincial level as well as 69 offices in major coal mines to curb the number of colliery accidents.

A series of training courses and publicity campaigns will be organized for entrepreneurs and officials in charge of work safety in the coming months, the official said.

Other agencies which deal with work safety issues include railways, public security, communications, construction, civil aviation and quarantine administrations and ministries.

But the SAWS coordinate and oversee investigations into workplace accidents, whether they result from fire, traffic crashes or other causes.

Since early this month, the State Council has dispatched dozens of work safety supervision panels to conduct inspections to identify and remove hazards in workplaces across China, SAWS officials said.

(China Daily June 18, 2003)

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