The mainland is taking steps to protect workers from scorching temperatures, through what will likely be its first set of comprehensive occupational safety standards for working in the blazing heat.
The drafted regulations on heat-prevention measures and regulations recently concluded their public consultation period. If approved, they would prohibit pregnant women and minors from working in temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius.
The administrative order, which is not a law, would also allow workers to claim heatstroke as a work injury and to seek damages from their employers who violate the regulations.
Labour-rights experts welcomed the draft, but noted that it came decades after similar standards were set in the other countries.
The mainland introduced regulations in 1960 on suitable temperatures for working but they applied to only a handful of industries, such as agriculture. But the rules have been criticised as outdated and ambiguous, covering few workers today.
The current draft was jointly drafted by the State Administration of Work Safety, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Temperatures given by local weather bureaus will be used as official gauges of heat.
The Chongqing Economic Times reported that the new regulations would extend the scope of coverage to benefit employees in all sectors.
In addition to banning employees from forcing pregnant women and minors to work when the temperature is above 35 degrees, the draft says no employees should work outdoors for more than five hours, or from noon to 3pm, if the temperature is between 37 and 40 degrees. All outdoor work would be prohibited if the temperature tops 40 degrees.
The draft also stipulates that wages shouldn't be deducted for reduced working hours because of the heat, and the regulations would urge employers to provide heat-avoidance measures at workplaces, and to adjust working hours.
Another important change is that employers would, for the first time, be subject to criminal prosecution if they violate the regulations.
Liu Kaiming, director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in Shenzhen, hailed the new regulations. '[The draft] is well defined with clear regulations to offer more protection for labourers,' he said.
Guan Tieliu , a labour rights lawyer, praised the proposed regulations, especially as they would allow workers to seek damages from irresponsible employers. 'However, [the regulations] fail to clearly define how various degrees of heatstroke could be treated as work injuries, nor does the draft state relevant compensation,' Guan said.