China's agency for worker safety reported last week that over 362,000 workers were injured and more than 63,000 had died on the job during the first half of this year, according to United Press International. These numbers represent an improvement compared to the same time frame last year.

Wang Dexue, deputy administrator at the State Administration of Work Safety, described the situation as relatively stable nationwide and said it had improved in some sectors, such as coal mining.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Wang said the 426,283 workplace injury incidents, including 63,735 deaths, across China during the first six months of 2004 represented a 12.8 percent drop in the accident rate compared with the same time frame in 2003. However the fatality rate declined by only 0.2 percent.

Despite an increase of 17 percent in coal production (120 million tons) to meet rising energy needs this year, both the absolute and relative numbers of fatalities in coal mines declined, said Wang.