Press reports call China's workplace safety woes a grim replay of the Industrial Revolution in the United States and other countries. Machinery will crush or sever the arms, hands and fingers of some 40,000 Chinese workers this year, according to government-controlled news media.

Most injuries occur in metalworking and electronics plants with heavy stamping equipment, shoe and handbag factories with leather-cutting equipment, toy factories and industrial plastics plants with blazing-hot machinery.

Local officials routinely overlook appalling safety conditions, worried that factory owners will relocate. They send mutilated migrant workers back to distant rural villages, according to a Knight-Ridder News article.

Injury incidents have a common thread. Usually, migrant workers arrive in one of China's coastal industrial zones. They take any job offered, no matter the conditions. With no safety training, the worker is assigned to an unfamiliar machine.

Compensation for each cut-off finger is 500 yuan, or about $60, roughly a month's salary.

Some workers would prefer to die because their parents would get a larger one-time compensation, said Luo Yun, professor of workplace safety at Beijing's University of Geology. "There's a popular saying now: 'We can afford to die, but we can't afford to be injured'," Luo said.