Rescuers evacuated more than 48 workers from the Shenxian County Fertilizer Co. in Shandong province, but the rescue didn't come in time for many workers. One worker died at the scene, and the others died at a local hospital.
An official from the provincial Work Safety Supervision Administration said it was not known how many employees were working when the accident occurred.
This industrial accident is just the latest in a long string of workplace tragedies, including a coal mine explosion on August 15 that claimed the lives of 37 miners in the province of Jilin. A gas explosion in Heilongjiang province killed 115 workers in July.
Despite increasing emphasis on workplace safety by the Chinese government and a crackdown on the owners and managers of unsafe companies, large-scale accidents continue to occur.
"Enterprises turning a deaf ear to safety regulations and management processes are the main reason for the recent disasters," said Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Administration of Work Safety Administration.