The nation's work safety authorities have urged stricter measures to be taken to prevent serious workplace accidents from occurring during the Western and Chinese New Year periods.
Yesterday during a nationally televised meeting, Wang Xianzheng, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, said the condition concerning work safety around the nation has been "stable."
According to official statistics, there were 883,000 accidents in the workplace for 2003 until November -- a decrease of more than 10 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Also reduced, by almost 3 per cent, was the number of lives claimed. The figure was down to 120,890 people.
However, there has been an increase in the number of serious accidents. Instances of severe accidents, classified as claiming at least 10 lives, have increased by more than 4 per cent.
Guizhou and Hunan provinces have seen at least 10 serious accidents each in the first 11 months of the year.
And the trend has continued in December as serious accidents -- blamed on boiler blasts, coal mine explosions, firecrackers blowing-up and incidents involving overloaded vehicles -- have already claimed 57 lives around the country.
"The alarm bells are ringing,'' said Wang.
In a bid to halt the slide, a nationwide initiative will start today to check the safety of coalmines, transportation methods and factories producing inflammables. Hidden perils will be removed.
Public firefighting facilities will also be tested.
"The checkups should be concluded before the end of the year to contribute to a safe and peaceful New Year,'' Wang said.
Although the number of construction accidents has been on the rise over the past few years, the country has just issued its first State regulation on construction safety. Released at the weekend, it will take effect in February.
Construction Minister Wang Guangtao said earlier this year that the regulation marks a new stage of development for China's construction safety management.
Statistics show that from January to October, more than 1,000 construction accidents occurred, killing more than 1,170 people.
In the first half of 2003, about 580 people were killed in construction accidents, an increase of over 20 per cent compared with the same period last year.
China's fast economic growth has helped shore up the real estate industry, putting it among the nation's top four pillar industries, said Wang Guangtao.
But it has added to the number of accidents as some construction companies operate illegally. A number of projects responsible for deaths were being carried out without permission.
Wang Guangtao said the new regulation is targeting such problems by setting up sound rules to curb illegal operations, making clear the obligations for on-the-job safety.
He said the move will help improve China's construction safety level, adding the Construction Ministry will take its time to make relevant rules and regulations to help the introduction of the regulation.
(China Daily December 16, 2003)