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News Extra: Official 2016 statistics show workplace safety improving in China, but coal mines still a problem

02 May 2017

According to a report by Xinhua, workplace accidents continued to decline in China in 2016 after the government took “iron-fisted” efforts to curb illegal operations. The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) reported 60,000 workplace safety accidents in 2016, down 5.8% on a year earlier.

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Stock image

Those accidents killed 41,000 workers, down 4.1% on the death total reported in 2015, Yang Huanning, head of the administration said at its annual meeting.

SAWS highlighted the substantial decline in the number of severe workplace accidents, defined as those resulting in at least 10 deaths. The number of severe accidents fell by 15.8% year on year to 32, while deaths declined by 25.7% to 571.

Most of the accidents happened on building construction sites, chemical factories and coal mines, according to the administration.

Xinhua said 200 of those responsible for severe incidents have been punished and 97 sent to judiciary departments for investigation, citing the administration.

Despite improvements, the safety situation at small coal mines remains dire, SAWS said, with severe accidents at small pits on the rise.

Huang Yuzhi, director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, affiliated with SAWS, said 60% of the nation's coal mines are small collieries with production capacity less than 300,000 tonnes a year.

Outdated equipment, lack of technicians and loose management have plagued those mines, where nearly 80% of severe coal mine accidents happened. In addition, illegal small coal mines re-emerged in a number of regions as local governments loosened oversight in pursuit of economic interests, Huang told the SAWS annual meeting.

To ensure safety improvements, SAWS launched a nationwide programme of checks on coal mines in March which will last until the end of the year. It will cover both operational mines and those previously ordered to suspend production.

The move comes after a string of fatal incidents so far in 2017, Xinhua said, including one where a gas explosion killed seven people and injured 11 in southwest China’s Guizhou province in early March.

Coal mine safety was “complicated and grim,” SAWS said, according to Xinhua.

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