More than 12,000 enterprises in China have been punished since May for failing to protect their employees from a poisonous working environment, the Ministry of Health said yesterday in a statement.
Among the 12,000 enterprises that broke the law on occupational diseases control, which was put into enforcement in May this year, 981 have been shut down and over 4,300 had their business suspended. The rest have been given administrative warnings, ordered to make improvements or face fines.
In late May, a nationwide campaign against the production, sale and use of poisonous chemicals was launched. This was triggered by incidents of benzene poisoning in North China's Hebei Province and Beijing.
In the accidents, a total of seven people working for suitcase or paper case factories were killed because they had been exposed to poisonous air for prolonged periods while working.
Similar fatal cases were also reported in South China's Guangdong and East China's Zhejiang and Shandong provinces where private manufacturing is booming.
By the end of November, more than 48,800 enterprises in 27 provinces had been inspected by officials from departments of health, labor and public security, according to the statement, which reviews the process of the campaign and plans for future moves.
Local governments have made great efforts in publicizing the law on occupational diseases control to raise workers' health awareness. For example, in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, more than 40,000 copies of the law were distributed and 24,900 workplace safety inspectors were trained.
Through the campaign, local governments have become increasingly aware of major industries that involve harmful glue and adhesive, including shoe making, case making, leather processing and furniture manufacturing.
Such enterprises have been urged to establish regulations and systems for the prevention of occupational diseases, improve their working environment and equip themselves with disease-prevention facilities.
The statement pointed out that implementation of the campaign is facing difficulties because the number of companies producing, selling and using poisonous chemicals is quite large and most of such companies are small in size and often move.
Governments at all levels are urged to severely punish enterprises that violate the law on occupational diseases control and make public such punishment.
Relevant departments should strengthen their co-operation in the campaign, the statement said.
(China Daily December 11, 2002)