Safety laws delayed by investment concerns

CHINA is reluctant to announce draft regulations on workers' safety in foreign-funded enterprises, despite the latest in a series of fatal industrial accidents in Zhuhai, a senior labour official said.

Labour Ministry Safety and Health Monitoring Department official Zhang Shoumin said the delay in publication was due to concerns foreign investors would be discouraged - thus slowing economic development.

Besides yesterday's fatal blast, two women were trampled to death last week when about 1,000 women fled their workplace dormitory in panic over a fire scare. About 100 workers have been killed in Zhuhai in the past two years.

Mr Zhang said yesterday: 'The economic conditions of many regions have not developed into a mature stage.

'That's why some provincial officials, especially in the south, are reserved about putting further controls on foreign investors.

'They fear that if foreigners are discouraged from investing, the economic future of their regions will be affected.' Such fears, it is understood, have also restricted the drafting of the laws, which do not stipulate much heavier penalties for irresponsible employers.

Concerns over labour safety have been high because southern China has been hit by serious industrial accidents, mostly in crowded foreign-funded factories.

Mr Zhang disclosed that the new legislation, which was reviewed more than 10 times, would give labour officials greater powers to monitor safety management of foreign-funded companies, especially those at accident-plagued factories.

'Hindrances to the implementation of the laws remain very strong. There seems to be no way to solve the dilemma,' Mr Zhang said.

He declined to say when would be the right time to enact the legislation, and he would not comment on whether the Zhuhai administration's safety measures were adequate.

Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to repair its reputation after a series of construction site accidents, the Guangzhou municipal Government has announced stricter rules to monitor underground building projects.

According to the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency, the seven-point regulations stipulate that all underground projects without proper building designs or adequate safety precautions and technology should be banned.

Many Guangzhou construction workers have been killed or injured when protective walls have collapsed. The latest accident, last Friday, left at least one worker dead and about 50 injured.