Shocked by the recent spate of multiple-death accidents in China, lawmakers pointed out Tuesday that most of the tragedies were due to human error.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) made the observation while discussing the draft law on work safety at the on-going legislative session which began Monday.
"Accidents claimed about 300 lives daily in China, and annual economic losses incurred equal the total cost of two Three Gorges Dams," said Sheng Huaren, lawmaker and former minister in charge of the State Economic and Trade Commission.
Of the 100,000 people killed in all kinds of accidents annually, mine-related deaths were second only to deaths in traffic accidents, and coal mines, especially small coal mines, were notorious for gas explosions and took the lead in killing workers, he said.
"The majority of the accidents have been caused by violations of safety rules, and thus should have been prevented if enough precautions were taken," he said.
It was extremely important to make the new law on work safety, once adopted, known to all workplace owners and workers, lawmakers said. Most agreed that the draft law, on its third hearing, was ready to be put to vote at the end of the session Saturday.
Sheng said work procedures and safety facilities must be regularly checked and safety rules implemented, and workers should be educated on possible dangers in the workplace. A liability system should be established for decision makers, supervisors, and those who implement and enforce relevant rules, he said.
Legislator Yan Yixun said that some factory owners and managers knew of possible risks, but still thought they could ignore them in their pursuit of profits.
"Severe penalties should be given to those intentional perpetrators," he said.
Some factory owners and managers had been caught trying to cover up accidents, leading to more casualties because of delayed rescue work, said lawmaker Nie Li.
For this reason, an addition should be made that executive officers are obliged to report accidents to the government as soon as possible, she said.
Lawmaker Zhang Haoruo suggested the law provide detailed stipulations on work safety in the service sector, such as department stores, supermarkets, cinemas and Internet cafes.
(People's Daily June 26, 2002)