China saw fewer work-related accidents and fatalities last year as government regulators strengthened inspections and penalties. Still, there are more potential safety hazards as the economy develops and urbanization continues, the work safety authority said.
About 53,000 work-related accidents occurred in the country last year, a decline of 16.2 percent from 2016. Those accidents killed 38,000 people, down 12.1 percent, Wang Yupu, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, said on Jan 29.
The number of “extremely severe accidents” declined from 32 in 2016 to 25 last year, and fatalities in these accidents decreased since 2016 by 228 to 342, Wang said at a national work safety conference.
Most of these accidents occurred in coal mines and road transportation and because of workplace fires, Wang said.
Accidents are classified as “extremely severe” if they result in more than 30 deaths or severely injure more than 100 people, or cause direct economic losses of more than 100 million yuan ($15.6 million).
The improvement occurred thanks to enhanced inspections and penalties, Wang said. Work safety authorities conducted more than 4.6 million on-site inspections last year and the fines they imposed increased by about 58 percent from 2016 to about 3.3 billion yuan, Wang said.
He said 805 people were held accountable for 26 “extremely severe accidents” and 334 of them have been referred to prosecutors.
In a four-month national work safety inspection last year, 63,000 enterprises were forced to suspend production and another 31,000 were shut down altogether, he added.
The country has seen more challenges in work safety controls as the economy develops and urbanization continues, he said.
About 43 million people, the population of a medium-sized country, travel in China every day. A total of 1 billion metric tons of hazardous chemical substances are transported in the country each year, he said.
“Population and industries are increasingly concentrated in urban areas. While sizes of Chinese cities continue to expand, industrial structures in the urban areas are more and more complicated,” he said, adding some new forms of industries may fall beyond regulation, which increases risks.
“Workers’ skills and work safety consciousness fail to improve with the rapid industrialization,” he said. “The high staff turnover in many factories also results in inadequate work safety training.”
Huang Yuzhi, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, said about 28 percent of coal mines have an annual output of less than 90,000 metric tons and have more safety hazards than larger mines.
While 6,100 coal mines were closed in 2017, his administration will draft plans to weed out more small-scale mines in 2018.
He also calls on coal mines to move to intelligent mining facilities and remote control systems to reduce the number of workers involved and to enhance safety.