China mulls workplace safety law revision

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-2-26 10:00:50

 China's top legislature on Tuesday reviewed a bill on revising the workplace safety law, in an attempt to close possible loopholes.

The bill was tabled at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which is being held here from Tuesday to Thursday.

Although the law, which took effect in 2002, has helped reduce malpractice over the past 12 years, many problems still need to be addressed, Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, told lawmakers.

The country has a high incidence of workplace accidents and fails to prevent accidents that result in serious casualties, Yang said.

According to the administration, last year it investigated 44 serious workplace accidents and about 300 people were prosecuted for violating workplace safety laws.

One of the most shocking accidents was a pipeline explosion in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao in November that claimed 62 lives. Altogether, 63 people have been punished for the accident, including 15 being prosecuted.

"It is important to amend the law, based on new situations, to effectively prevent and reduce workplace accidents," Yang said.

The draft includes articles to ensure employers are aware of their responsibilities, improve supervision and tighten up punishment against offenders, he explained.

The bill increases fines for a number of types of malpractice.

For instance, for employers who fail to provide workplace safety training for employees and do not correct wrongdoing after being required to do so, the bill raises the fine from a maximum 20,000 yuan (3,225 US dollars) to between 50,000 and 100,000 yuan.

For a mining company that does not include work safety control measures in its construction plan and fails to correct wrongdoing on time, the bill raises the fine from a maximum 50,000 yuan to between 500,000 and 1 million yuan. A fine of between 20,000 and 50,000 yuan will be imposed on individuals directly responsible for the offence.

"To deter big companies that do not care about large fines, the bill asks the work safety regulator to set up a blacklist," Yang said, adding that information on serious offenders could be published and shared with regulators of investment, land use and securities as well as banks.

To improve supervision of employers, the bill grants the regulator more power, for instance, allowing it to confiscate hazardous substances that are illegally produced, stored or distributed, as well as to seal up the sites used in such activities.

Also, it allows the regulator to force factories to suspend operation by cutting off their power supply, if their workplace safety is considered highly risky and likely to cause accidents.

But the regulator will have to go through a strict procedure before taking such an extreme measure, said Zhang Yaobo, an official with the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, involved in drafting the bill.

"Such measures will only be adopted when the employer is warned by the regulator but refuses to stop production, and cutting off power supply will not compromise safety," Zhang said.

The bill also added new regulations asking employers to regularly check security loopholes in workplaces, record them and inform their employees in a timely manner.

It encourages them to join workplace safety insurance programs, so that insurance companies can help supervise safety measures and handle compensation if an accident happens.

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