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State Puts Stress on Safety

A new national standard for occupational health and safety management systems is to be implemented at the beginning of next year in a bid to curb the increase in workplace injuries and occupational disease.

The GB/T 28001-2001 national standard will be effective in making enterprises aware of health and safety and maintaining their awareness, said Shi Baoquan, deputy administrator of the State Administration for Standardization.

The new specification was issued jointly by the administration and the China National Regulatory Commission for Certification and Accreditation.

Shi said it can help organizations set up and improve their occupational health and safety management system, to control and reduce risks in the workplace, and to continually improve their performance on health and safety.

All enterprises will be encouraged to follow the standard, especially those whose employees are more exposed to noxious chemicals, noise, dust or other pollution, or companies where work conditions are very dangerous and industrial accidents on the rise.

The reported number of people who have died in industrial accidents has increased every year since the beginning of the 1990s.

Over 500,000 industrial plants and mines have occupational health hazards, and more than 25 million employees are exposed to dust, noise or toxic chemicals.

Last year, nearly 12,000 cases of workplace disease were reported, including the lung disease pneumoconiosis, which is caused by inhaling dust or small particles.

This was an increase of 14.5 percent over 1999. Pneumoconiosis patients accounted for more than 77 percent of all the cases, according to the Ministry of Health.

The financial cost of work-related accidents and occupational disease comes to around 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) a year and the figure has been on the increase in the last few years.

Shi said: "It is time to strengthen the management of occupational health and safety. Workers have the right to enjoy a safe workplace and their health and lives are closely related to the country's social development and economic growth."

Shi said that the new standard would help Chinese enterprises compete and co-operate better with their world counterparts.

(China Daily December 20, 2001)

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