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China to Curb Workplace Accidents
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In a move to improve work site safety, China's lawmakers are considering making it easier to press criminal charges against people who are held responsible for industrial accidents.

The revised penal law submitted to the legislature for deliberation on Tuesday, proposes to broaden the definition of crimes related to work-place safety so that more people found responsible for causing fatal accidents could be charged with negligence.

The crime can lead to imprisonment of up to seven years.

The current law allows only employees of firms and public organizations to be charged with work-place safety crimes.

"We made the change as many offenders are individuals not belonging to any firm or public organization," said Zhou Shenren, deputy director of legislative committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), or the top legislature.

Zhou said the draft also allows for supervisors to be charged for failing to report accidents or attempting to cover them up. Serious offenders can be sentenced up to seven years in jail.

China's coal mines are among the most deadly work sites in the world. Nearly 6,000 people were killed in over 3,341 coal mine accidents last year. Negligence and lacks management are believed to be the major causes behind the accidents. The revised law also raises the maximum incarceration for people who coerce others to work in unsafe conditions that lead to fatal accidents from seven years to ten years.

"These are crimes of negligence. They occur due to a headlong pursuit of profits." said Huang Taiyun, a lawmaker with the NPC.

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2006)

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