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Campaign to Improve Workplace Safety

The Ministry of Health Thursday issued an emergency document setting in motion a national inspection and supervision campaign on workers' health and a variety of measures to be taken by employers to ensure the safety of workers.


Enterprises which fail to correct unsafe practices will even be forced to close their doors, the document stipulates.


At the same time, workplace health hazard authorities will monitor employers to make sure they conduct regular health examinations for their workers, especially farmers who have joined the work force in cities.


The document stipulates that local health authorities and enterprises must provide timely medical treatment and compensation as soon as possible for workers who have contracted ailments in the workplace.


As of July 10, a total of 39 people had died this year in 25 serious workplace health accidents in the country, according to a report released by the Ministry of Health yesterday.


Most of the deaths were caused by suffocating poisonous gases, including hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide. The majority of the victims were migrant workers from farms.


On March 18, 65 workers were affected by suffocating gases in the Jiugang Thermo-electric Plant in Northwest China's Gansu Province, with three of them dying.


On June 29, three workers were killed by coal gas which poisoned a total of 27 people in the Shuicheng Iron and Steel Group's plant in Liupanshui city, in Southwest China's Guizhou Province.


The main reasons for the contraction of so many serious workplace diseases are that some employers have not strictly stuck to the prevention and control laws meant to minimize the incidence of occupational diseases, and the blatant disregard of workers' rights to health protection, officials from the Ministry of Health said.


With the large numbers of people in China who encounter dangers in the workplace, huge numbers of workers contract occupational diseases, with many of them dying, said Li Tao, an expert from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Occupational hazards of different degrees of seriousness exist in more than 500,000 enterprises and mines.

(China Daily August 8, 2003)

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