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Workplace death toll 'too high'

Updated: 2015-03-11 08:11
By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)

More than 66,000 Chinese died in workplace accidents last year, a death toll that's "too high", a senior official in charge of the country's work safety issues said.

Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, said the death toll has seen a sharp drop compared with its peak in 2002, when 240,000 people died in 1.07 million workplace accidents.

Citing his experience during the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress, Yang said society should pay more attention to workplace safety and suggested journalists should, too.

"When I walked across the minister's passage, none of them called me," Yang said at a news conference on Tuesday.

A common practice is that when senior officials from key government departments walk through the so-called minister's passage close to the north gate of the Great Hall of the People, they are often intercepted by reporters who stand nearby for interviews.

The administration oversees the country's workplace safety issues and deals with a range of matters, including coal mine explosions.

A total of 931 coal miners died last year, down by 86.7 percent compared with the peak figure of 7,000 in 2002.

"There are as many as 5.8 million coal miners across the country. Miners deserve our attention since they work in damp and dark places underground, without clean air," Yang said.

Without the contribution of the miners, China would lose 66 percent of its energy supply, and the people would live in darkness due to lack of electricity, he said.

Work safety authorities will take stricter measures to prevent accidents, which is also the requirement of the Workplace Safety Law that was revised by the top legislature in August, he said.

The revision raised the maximum fine for workplace safety violations from 5 million yuan ($800,000) to the current 20 million yuan.

President Xi Jinping has said that economic development should not be achieved at the price of people's lives, Yang said.

"We should pursue zero deaths, even though it's way too difficult," he added.

Concerns about workplace safety have risen in recent years following some serious accidents. In November 2013, a gasoline pipeline explosion in Qingdao, Shandong province, claimed 62 lives.

There are currently 120,000 kilometers of oil pipelines in China, with more than 29,000 potential safety hazards, including crossings and lack of safety perimeters, Yang said.

Work safety authorities have eliminated 60 percent of the potential safety hazards. The remaining hazards are too difficult to remove, he said.


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