Government to Better Protect Workers from Health Hazards
According to the Ministry of Health, some 200 million mainland Chinese workers have been exposed to various health hazards in the workplace. China recently amended its Occupational Disease Prevention Law. But insiders say there is still a long way to go before workers are protected from workplace health hazards.
Tingting takes a closer look.
Despite government efforts to contain occupational diseases, its incident rate across the nation has increased in recent years. Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that there were more than 720,000 cases of occupational diseases reported in the country in 2009, up nearly 32 percent on the previous year.
Black lung disease accounted for more than 90 percent of cases and caused a direct economic loss of 8 billion yuan, or around 1.2 billion US dollar each year.
Besides obvious factors causing problems for workers' health, there are still invisible hazards in offices. Poor ventilation, dusts, chemicals and noise, all can cause harm to workers' health.
Zhang Haichao is the miner who made his name by having open chest surgery to prove that he had occupational lung disease. He says his employer just didn't care.
"No one in my former company was in charge of protecting our health. When the disease was diagnosed, I have no one to ask for help. "
Zhang's case started a heated discussion about how to protect workers' health. In 2002, China enacted its occupational disease prevention law. It said patients could be awarded compensation from an employer and insurer, after being diagnosed by a government occupational disease control center.
Employers are obliged to provide employees' work history and an evaluation of health hazards at the workplace. Those who refuse to provide the work history of an employee when he or she leaves the job could face legal consequences and a fine from 20,000 to 50,000 yuan.
Chen Zhu is the Health Minister.
"To make it simple, enterprises take the main responsibility of protecting workers from health hazards. The local governments supervise and make sure that is properly done. Otherwise, government officials may face punishment such as a demerit, demotion, or even being removed from their positions. "
But when it comes to making compensation easier, many specifics are still to be worked out. For instance, in some cities like Wuhan and Chongqing, pilot projects have been started to work out the details of Environmental Pollution liability Insurance. But many insurance firms claim they still need time to get ready for the deal. One of their challenges is how to evaluate workplace environment safety risks.
Starting this year, the State Administration of Work Safety will replace the Ministry of Health to take over the work of evaluating workplace safety risks.
For CRI, I'm Tingting.