China / Society

Harsher penalties for workplace accidents

By Zhang Yi ( Updated: 2014-11-04 19:44

Tougher punishment following major workplace accidents is likely to result in penalties of up to 20 million yuan ($3.3 million), when China's new work safety law comes into force next month.

Changes to the 12-year-old Work Safety Law are scheduled to become effective from December 1. The amended law reinforces the concept of human safety over economic progress and increases penalties.

According to the amendment, a major accident will result in penalties of between 1 million and 5 million yuan and extraordinarily serious accidents will be punished by fines of between 5 million and 20 million yuan.

The amendment, approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Aug 31, involves more than 70 changes and improves accident prevention and emergency response systems.

Penalties will also be imposed on the primary responsible individual if an accident occurs due to a person's proven negligence or wrongdoing, including demotion or dismissal and a fine of a certain percentage of the previous year’s income.

Once confirmed as being responsible for an extraordinarily serious accident, the guilty party can no longer remain in the chief decision-making position of companies in the same industrial sector.

Zhi Tongxiang, general safety director at the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said the amendment specified the main duties of work safety for companies and organizations and clarified the role of supervision for government organs at different levels.

He said the new law included the toughest punishments since 2002.

Huang Yi, spokesman for SAWS, said China’s overall safety record in the workplace is better than that of last year. "There have been no extraordinarily serious accidents in coal mines for 19 consecutive months and the death toll, measured in deaths per one million tons of coal mined, was down to 0.25," he said.

"We will accelerate the closure of small coal mines. As of now, we have identified 902 small mines to be closed, 800 of which will have been shut within this year," Huang said, adding that SAWS will not approve the construction of coal mines with an annual output less than 300,000 tons.

SAWS has moved, restructured or closed 1,317 hazardous chemicals and firecracker factories in densely populated towns during the first three-quarters of this year.

In addition, it will close 4,734 non-coal mines and reduce the number of dangerous tailing ponds, where unwanted mining materials are separated from solid particles in water, to 774.

Huang emphasized the underlying problems of oil and gas pipelines which cover 120,000 kilometers with part of them in service for more than 20 years. There were 300,000 places in the network identified as potential dangers last year and only 34 percent of the problems have been fixed.

Huang called for concerted efforts to remove all hazards and urged a working group to be set up to ensure the pipelines’ safety.

The total number of accidents and fatalities at the workplace has reduced by 2.6 and 8.8 percent respectively during the first three-quarters of this year. The number of major accidents and extraordinarily serious accidents reduced by 25.6 percent during the same period of time, SAWS said.

According to the administration office, between January and October, the number of coal mine accidents and fatalities reduced by 15.1 and 15.4 percent respectively compared with the same period last year.

As of the end of September, of all 50 major coal producing counties in China, 21 achieved a record of zero accidents. The number of accidents and deaths of the 50 major coal producing counties had respectively dropped by 38 and 42.3 percent on a year-on-year basis, according to the work safety watchdog.


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