Safety at Work

Related entries: Business Issues, General, Risk & Law

The environmental costs of rapid economic growth were covered here (on water) and here (on energy), but what about the human cost?

Working overtime in harsh conditions may be something that many (including those making iPods) may choose to accept, but there is no room for discussion when it comes to avoidable industrial accidents. People’s Daily reports:

    “The death toll in industrial accidents was 13,600 in China in 2004 when the gross domestic product reached 13.6 trillion yuan (1.64 trillion U.S. dollars), which meant every million yuan worth of GDP cost one person’s life. “

Cold, hard figures like these have promted Hua Jianmin, State Councilor (and Secretary-General of the State Council), to seek improvements in work safety and occupational health. At the opening of the third China International Occupational Safety and Health Exhibition he said:

    “The national situation of industrial safety is still serious although there are signs of improvement and the country, in the process of industrialization, has established a far too weak safety infrastructure”.

Issues that need to be addressed include:

    • Work safety accountability system at local government level and in enterprises
    • Safety equipment
    • Labor protection
    • Occupational health protection

While policy initiatives like this must be a good thing, it will be interesting to see whether the media will be allowed to play a full and useful role in driving change and ensuring accountability. The recently drafted rules on reporting of “sudden incidents” (as well as controls on the media generally) would seem to reduce the impact that the media might have.

While any steps that are taken to raise awareness and improve safety at work must be welcomed, officials at the local level will, no doubt, need strong and sustained messages from the top, and businesses will need to be reminded that savings must not come with a human cost.

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