Workplace safety has been given a major boost with the central government announcing plans to spend 467.4 billion yuan (US$60 billion) over the next five years to reduce fatalities and accidents.
The money will be spent on upgrading safety measures, training and monitoring.
According to the plan released by the General Office of the State Council on Monday, the death rate per 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million) of gross domestic product will be cut from 0.7 last year to below 0.45 in 2010.
In industrial plants, including mining, it aims to bring down workplace deaths for every 100,000 workers from 3.85 last year to 2.8 in 2010.
The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said the plan the first of its kind in the country also aims to reduce the number of accidents with more than 10 deaths by at least 20 per cent. There were 73 such cases last year.
Of the planned fund, which will be administered by the central government, about three-quarters will be paid by companies and the rest will come from the coffers of central and local governments, said Peng Yujing, a SAWS official.
"The money will be spent in nine areas, ranging from coal mine accident prevention, checking for potential accidents, technological innovations and rescue efforts to enforcement of regulations and laws as well personnel training," Peng said.
Driven by economic interests, some local governments turn a blind eye to safety in factories and mines.
"Some local governments and enterprises fail to strike a balance between work safety and economic development," according to the plan, posted on the watchdog's website (www.chinasafety.gov.cn).
During the past decade, an average of 700,000 workplace accidents were reported each year, resulting in more than 120,000 deaths and 700,000 serious injuries annually.
Last year, about 127,000 people died in workplace accidents and there were 17 cases where death tolls exceeding 30. The coal industry witnessed the deaths of about 6,000 miners in 2005, reports said.
To prevent the trend of seeking economic growth at the cost of workers' lives, the plan suggests work safety be included in economic and social development programmes and in the evaluation of local officials.
The plan did not set specific spending targets for individual sectors or companies even as it recognized the enormity of the challenge.
"Rapid economic growth will further strain the transport network and the supplies of coal, electricity, and oil, posing fresh and even bigger work safety challenges," it said.
China Daily - Agencies
(China Daily 08/30/2006 page1)