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Death toll drops in work incidents
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-21 01:29

China's work safety situation improved in the first half of 2004 despite rapid economic growth, a senior official said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a gas explosion in the Luzigou coal mine in Huairen County of North China's Shanxi Province killed 12 miners on Monday.

More than 426,000 incidents involving injury or death occurred nationwide, 12.8 per cent less than the same period of last year, said Wang Dexue, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety, at a press conference organized by the Information Office of the State Council.

The incidents resulted in 63,735 deaths, a 0.2 per cent drop from the year before, Wang said.

Wang attributed the improvement of the nation's work safety to measures taken by the central government at the beginning of this year.

Control indicators were established to promote the implementation of a safety responsibility system by various levels of government, said Wang.

Work safety campaigns were carried out, focusing on problems in accident-plagued industries, Wang said.

Safety campaigns were launched to go hand in hand with intensified safety supervision and administration, he said.

"However, work safety still remains a serious concern since the number of incidents and the death toll remains high -- with about 350 people killed daily on average," Wang noted.

At the same time, major incidents are still happening frequently and occupational hazards are still very serious, he said.

When speaking of the notorious underreporting of incidents in some coal mines, Wang said severe penalties will be given to those responsible for cover-ups.

Several cases under or deceptively reported were discovered across the country when gas explosions occurred in some coal mines in Henan, Hebei and Hunan provinces earlier this year.

Due to the nation's strained coal supply and the rise in coal prices, some coal mine managers hesitate to report accidents for fear of hurting the bottom line, said Huang Yi, spokesman of the work safety administration.

On the other hand, the existing laws tend to be lax with people responsible for covering up mining accidents, Huang said.

"Even worse, behind the underreporting cases are often corrupted officials, who provide protective umbrellas," he said.

While consolidating the role of enterprises as the major entities responsible for work safety, the administration will better train personnel in areas of work safety supervision and administration as well as in coal mine safety inspections in the second half of this year, Wang said.

More than 600,000 people suffer from occupational diseases because of poor protective measures at workplaces. The number is increasing by 20,000 every year, said Wang.

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