In the wake of the recent spate of air flight and coal mine tragedies, it seems that governments at all levels have come to grips with the problem of safety.
A team of reporters set off on a cross-country "work safety circuit" last weekend in Beijing to conduct interviews on key issues relating to work safety around the country.
And this June has been officially designated as the first national "safe production month," during which enterprises and governments at all levels are being called upon to strengthen safety efforts.
At the same time, safety supervision panels organized by relevant departments have been dispatched to identify safety problems around the country.
There is no doubt that such large-scale safety campaigns will raise the public's awareness of safe production and force some enterprises to move toward safe production.
But the effects of safety checks and publicity campaigns are limited.
Because all these measures do little to alter the fundamental problem behind the many disasters -- corporate failure to ensure adequate safety measures and supervision, either due to negligence or the blind pursuit of cost-cutting and profits.
Unless enterprises take the initiative, it is only a matter of time before more disasters occur. A close review of recent coal mine accidents reveals that big disasters often occurred in small businesses where workplace health and safety are sacrificed to cut costs and maximize profits.
While big companies may be more willing to provide a safe working environment, there are few incentives for unknown small enterprises to follow safety standards. And the penalties for safety breaches are too little to bring a significant shift in attitude among employers.
Lax law enforcement and corrupt officials also play roles in the failure to curb safety violations.
Therefore, to build a safety culture, the government should provide more incentives to get enterprises to ensure safe working conditions for their employees and should also severely punish enterprises that fail to maintain safety standards.
(China Daily June 11, 2002)