By Wan Li, Brent I. Clark, and Craig B. Simonsen
According to Cai Renjun, an official from the People’s Republic of China, Legislative Affairs Commission, of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, “about 70,000 people died in work safety cases last year, [with] about 60,000 of them in road accidents.” Policy Watch, China Daily (August 26, 2014).

Under new amendments, adopted August 31, 2014, by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to the Law on Work Safety, employers that are responsible for employment related accidents could be fined as much as 20 million yuan ($3,231,000). The law, which was adopted in August, and became effective on December 1, 2014, also provides that businesses that produce and transport dangerous products and operate mines must employ full-time “qualified safety engineers” to take charge of work safety issues, and the safety engineers are to be reported to the local government. In addition employers may be fined up to one million yuan if they use uncertified safety equipment, and refuse to rectify the situation, in high-risk industries such as mining and the storage of dangerous materials. The fine was previously 50,000 yuan.

Cai Renjun, in the Policy Watch article, cited to a couple of other examples of industries that will be regulated under the amended safety law. For instance, a fire killed 121 people at a poultry plant in Jilin province in June 2013. In August this year a blast at a wheel hub polishing workshop in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, killed 75 people and injured more than 180. “A preliminary investigation found that the explosion was caused by excessive metal dust in the workshop igniting.”

To enforce the new law, government agencies are authorized to take compulsory measures, including “cutting the electricity supply,” if companies refuse to improve their safety procedures. In summary overview, the amendments focus on toughening laws against companies and “persons in charge” of worker health and safety responsibilities.

International employers would be wise to look into their operations in the People’s Republic of China, to ensure compliance with these new amendments. Besides the now large fines and penalties for worker safety incidents, businesses may now also anticipate the facility power being unilaterally shut down — so proceed with any negotiations and discussions with government officials very carefully.