The Ministry of Health on Monday issued a notice asking all employers in industries that use poisonous materials to provide their employees with free health check-ups by November 1.
Industries in which workers come into contact with poisonous chemicals mainly include the manufacture of bags and boxes, embroidered goods, furniture, leather goods, shoes and toys.
The ministry's new national campaign also requires employers to promptly send workers with occupational diseases to hospital.
The full cost of health check-ups and treatment must be paid by employers. All the medical work must be done in hospitals selected by health administration departments, the notice said.
Employers who refuse to perform according to the notice will be fined, told to shut down, or even punished under criminal law.
Early this year, several incidents of acute poisoning were reported in several factories in East China's Zhejiang Province, North China's Hebei Province and in suburban Beijing.
Dozens of people have been killed by occupational diseases, including leukemia, as a result of being in contact with poisonous materials without effective protection.
On May 1 this year, China put into effect a special law on workplace-disease prevention and control, which established strict requirements for the protection of workers' health.
However, many enterprises still use highly poisonous poor-quality glue to make shoes or bags. And many also refuse to provide medical treatment for workers who are poisoned by the glue, the ministry notice said.
The Ministry of Health last year received reports of 13,218 cases of occupational disease nationwide, a rise of 13 percent over the figure for the year before.
Statistics from the ministry also show that 756 cases of acute poisoning were reported in 2001, involving 110 deaths.
However, experts believe that the actual figures relating to occupational disease - such as acute poisoning, pneumoconiosis, silicosis and other chronic poisonings - are much higher.
(China Daily Septembert 4, 2002)