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Safety focus shows new era’s priorities

Zhang Yue
Updated: Apr 24,2018 9:19 AM     China Daily

A recent regulation that clarifies the responsibility of both leaders of the local committees of the Communist Party of China as well as local governments, highlights the strong resolution of the central government to better protect people’s lives and improve living standards in the new era, experts said.

On April 18, the general offices of the CPC Central Committee as well as the State Council, China’s Cabinet, released a guideline that clarified the responsibilities of local CPC leaders and government officials’ specific responsibility in ensuring workplace safety.

The guideline is the first of its kind that defines local CPC leaders as being in a leading role in ensuring workplace security.

Liu Tiemin, professor and former president of the Chinese Academy of Safety Science and Technology, said the new guideline is the most important one in three years and bears profound significance in better ensuring work safety.

Preventing accidents is an important component in the country’s goal of comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, Liu pointed out. He said that though the country’s total number of workplace casualties has plunged since 2005, the current number of deaths is still three to five times that of countries who are at the same economic development level as China.

Figures from the Ministry of Emergency Management show that the workplace safety record continued to improve, with the number of accidents and fatalities both dropping, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management. Accidents fell by 26.3 percent year-on-year from January to September 2017, and fatalities dropped by 19 percent.

The issue of workplace safety has been gaining increasing attention from the central government in recent years, especially since 2016, Liu said, adding that the central government has issued three important guidelines in improving safety from different perspectives, such as urban safety.

“It is the first central level guideline that clarifies work safety responsibility for local Party chiefs. In the past, there were only guidelines in stressing and clarifying responsibility for government officials, which had somehow developed a sense that issues regarding work safety were not that closely related to the responsibilities of Party officials,” Liu said.

The new document made clear that Party leaders will be primarily responsible for work-safety issues. This is also the first time that the role of Party leaders had been clearly defined.

Liu said that in the past most accidents saw Party officials being held accountable, yet the guideline has drawn clearer lines of responsibility on different types of officials in shouldering workplace safety.

“Work safety is becoming increasingly important in recent years as it is closely related to improving people’s living quality. And important issues and challenges are always encountered under the leadership of the CPC,” Liu pointed out.

Another key message included in the new guideline is that it has for the first time introduced clear and fair incentives and punishment systems in fulfilling responsibilities for both Party leaders of local CPC committees as well as local government officials. Work safety conditions will be included in the evaluation of both local governments as well as officials’ personal evaluation. Yet it also made clear that when officials have tried within their capacity to ensure accidents did not happen, this should be taken into account.

Liu sees this as a positive move.

“There has long been an impression that when accidents happen, local officials responsible for workplace safety will definitely be held accountable,” Liu said. “This has even created the phenomenon that no one is willing to take positions related to work safety.”

While making clear officials will be held accountable in particular circumstances, it was also made clear that those who perform well in ensuring workplace safety will enjoy incentives and be rewarded.

Wang Yukai, professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the clear incentive and punishment mechanisms for officials will be of benefit.

“We have always been saying that people are at the core of our development,” Wang said. “I believe if the new guideline is fully implemented in all aspects, accidents will be greatly reduced.”