The accident occurred on the afternoon of 3 October when the workers had been brought in during the National Day holiday to upgrade and enlarge the factory’s electroplating sinks. The cause of the accident is still being investigated but the Southern Metropolis Daily reported that the explosion occurred because management failed to ensure that all the sediment had been cleared from the bottom of the sinks before employees started working on them.
Just one week earlier, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security had initiated a work-related injury prevention program to be piloted in 12 cities including Shenzhen. The ministry urged the 12 municipal governments to develop and standardize their work-related injury insurance funds so as to provide adequate protection for workers and compensation for the victims of work-related accidents. However, it did little to address the single biggest cause of accidents in China’s factories and mines: namely managers forcing employees to work excessively long hours in dangerous conditions.
Just a week before the Ministry’s circular, three workers died and 17 others including several children were hospitalized after managers at a factory in Zhejiang ordered employees to collect garbage bags that had contained the highly toxic chemical dinitrophenol for sale to a local waste collector. The workers did not have protective clothing, and soon developed symptoms of dizziness, sweating, nausea, fever and yellowish skin. One worker died before medical help arrived and two others died within an hour of reaching hospital.
CLB, in its recommendations to the State Council on its proposed revisions to the Work-related Injury Insurance Regulations, suggests that local government’s work-related injury insurance funds should only be used for compensation payments and not be used for injury prevention measures because this responsibility should fall squarely and entirely on the shoulders of the employer. CLB argues that until employers are made fully accountable for the health and well-being of their employees, China’s work accident rate is unlikely to fall.