China Reports 41,000 Workplace Deaths

China's State Administration of Work Safety is reporting 41,000 workplace deaths during the first four months of 2004, which is the same number logged for the same time period in 2003.

According to Xinhua, China's government-run news agency, the State Administration of Work Safety reported 310,000 work-related accidents occurred during the first quarter of 2004, including a 12.8 percent reduction in mine accidents and a 12.3 percent reduction in manufacturing.

In 2003, the State Administration of Work Safety reported 963,976 work-related accidents in China, with 136,340 fatalities. That number was a decrease of 2,591 fatalities from 2002.

The Chinese government has adopted "People First, Safety First" as the theme for the third National Work Safety Month, which started on June 1. The State Administration for Safety Production Supervision said the focus of the month's activities is implementing the State Council's decision on strengthening work safety and the regulation of work safety permits. The government hopes that the safety month will serve as a reminder to federal and provincial departments responsible for workplace safety to step up their efforts to protect workers.

An editorial in the newspaper China Daily noted of the Safety Month effort, "Work safety is not a one-time deal. The Work Safety Month programs send out that wrong impression that lasting respect for safety can be gained by one supreme effort. It will be even more dangerous if related departments relax in other months when workplace safety is not the focus."

The editorial suggested canceling the Work Safety Month program means to send the message that "every month should be devoted to maintaining work safety. All related parties should be vigilant about work safety - at all times."

By contrast, 65 people were killed in workplace accidents in Ireland last year - which has a significantly smaller workforce than China - and the number of workplace injuries and illnesses decreased by 15 percent since 1999, according to the Health and Safety Authority's annual report for 2003.

The authority prosecuted 76 cases for violations of safety regulations and conducted 11,000 workplace inspections. The agency said it plans to target the construction industry for special emphasis, due to high numbers of work-related deaths in that industry.

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