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Protect Workers from Diseases

All workers, especially those from rural areas, should be better protected from occupational diseases, says an article in People's Daily. An excerpt follows:


Two years ago, a group of migrant workers working in Donghu, Fujian Province, started suffering from silicosis, a lung disease caused by long-time exposure to dusty air loaded with silicon dioxide. The victims are still in pain because of this fatal disease. Some have already lost their lives.


Migrant workers are vulnerable to professional diseases because employers fail to ensure they have a safe working environment. Worse, they are excluded from health insurance programs. In many work places their rights are only limited to asking for full and on-time payment of their wages, they have no other benefits such as medical insurance and endowment insurance that are enjoyed by their peers from the cities.


The very existence of more than 16 million factories producing toxic and poisonous products is the main cause of occupational diseases, yet we cannot put an end to their business all at once.


In fact, China has a complete set of laws on occupational disease prevention. There are specific regulations on almost every detected work-related disease. However, many of the regulations are carelessly observed. Some factories are too profit-oriented to care about their employees' health.


To get rid of occupational diseases, or at least to minimize their occurrence, all employers should provide a safe working environment for their workers, including migrant workers who have always been placed at the lower echelons of society. Equipment to prevent workers' exposure to toxic substances is needed, while workers should have free medical examinations on a regular basis.


Government agencies should take up their responsibilities to supervise toxic substance manufacturers to make sure there are adequate prevention measures.


(China Daily May 25, 2005)

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