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Workplace safety progress in China?

October 11, 2002
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The Chinese government is claiming significant progress in stemming accidental deaths, although official figures show an almost five percent rise in overall fatalities on roads and in mines and factories, according to the Associated Press.

As China rushes pell-mell toward economic development, industrial accidents maim tens of thousands more than they kill each year. Dangerous drivers and poor roads contribute to crashes, and coal mine deaths occur almost daily.

Measures enacted in recent months "have helped ensure production safety across the country," Li Rongrong, the minister who oversees China's State Economic and Trade Commission, told the official Xinhua News Agency.

But figures posted on the State Safety Production Commission Web site showed a 4.5 percent rise in overall accidental deaths during the first seven months of the year to 75,741. Deaths in road accidents rose by 4.6 percent to 60,859 - 80 percent of all accidental deaths.

China's coal mines, the world's deadliest, recorded 3,620 deaths in the first seven months, up 4.8 percent from the same period last year.

Non-mining industrial accidents killed 3,071 - 11 percent more than last year, and railway accidents killed 4,863, a slight drop.

Total death tolls from accidents where 30 or more people died fell by more than half, while no such large accidents had occurred on roads or waterways, according to the agency. There were five such accidents in the first seven months of 2002.

China has 1.3 billion people and its rate of accidental death per 100,000 people might be actually lower than that of the United States, which has less than one quarter the population.

But China's data did not include accidental deaths from falling, poisoning, drowning and other causes counted by the United States, according to the National Safety Council, making a direct comparison impossible. The United States recorded 96,900 accidental deaths for all 1999.

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