China Claims Some Progress in Improving Industrial Safety

November 6, 2007

A five-year campaign to improve China’s notoriously deadly industrial safety record is gaining steam, with accidental deaths falling by nearly 14 percent in the first ten months of this year, the country’s top safety official wrote recently.

Since the institution of the Safety Production Law in 2003, numbers of accidental deaths have fallen by a growing percentage each year, from 1.7 percent the first year to 11.2 percent last year, said Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety.

“Production safety around the country is stable overall and the development trend is a change for the better,” Li wrote in an essay posted on the administration’s Web site.

Li’s paper gave no exact figures for numbers of deaths, but the official Xinhua News Agency gave the death toll in the first 10 months of the year as 79,000.

Other figures pointed to a fall in the death toll across industries and on the country’s roads.

The number of accidental deaths per 100 million yuan of GDP fell from 1.33 in 2002 before the safety law was adopted, to 0.56 last year.

Over that same period, road deaths fell from 13.7 per 10,000 vehicles, to just 6.2, while deaths in China’s coal mines, the scene of some of the worst industrial carnage, fell from 4.94 per million tons of coal mined in 2002, to 2.04 last year.

Despite the success, Li warned against complacency, saying the safety situation “remained grave.”

“A lot of deep rooted, historical factors affecting safety have yet to be thoroughly fixed,” Li said.

An engineer who spent more than three decades in the oil industry, Li is chiefly credited with bringing about the improvement since joining the safety administration in 2003.

To highlight problems and shame those responsible, Li has traveled to factories and mines where deadly accidents have occurred, demanding full investig

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