News / Asia

China Factory Blasts Highlight Gaps in Workplace Safety

Family members cry at a caring centre for relatives of victims of a factory explosion, in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, August 3, 2014. Family members cry at a caring centre for relatives of victims of a factory explosion, in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, August 3, 2014.
x
Family members cry at a caring centre for relatives of victims of a factory explosion, in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, August 3, 2014.
Family members cry at a caring centre for relatives of victims of a factory explosion, in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, August 3, 2014.
Shannon Van Sant

A massive explosion that killed at least 75 people and wounded 186 at a Chinese metal works plant is highlighting how the country continues to struggle with worker safety.

Chinese state media say the explosion at a metal works plant in Jiangsu happened early Saturday when a fire ripped through the factory floor. The plant manufactured auto parts and is one of the suppliers for American car company General Motors.

An initial Chinese government probe indicated that the explosion might have been caused by dust which ignited inside the workshop, where workers were polishing hubcaps. The fire destroyed most of the factory’s roof.

Enforcement

Geoffrey Crothall of China Labor Bulletin said Chinese laws exist to ensure worker safety, but they are not enforced. “The explosion at the factory in Kunshan illustrates once again that although there are many laws and regulations outlining health and safety standards in the workplace those standards are not properly enforced by local authorities,” he stated.

As authorities investigate the incident at Zhongrong Metal Products plant, General Motors released a statement saying it has no relationship with Zhongrong. GM said the company is a subcontractor for the “Dicastal” company that GM purchases car components from. GM said under its agreement with Dicastal, all subcontractors are obligated to follow local health and safety codes.

Crothall said western companies are limited in what they can do to enforce safety standards at their Chinese suppliers. “They don’t own the factory, they don’t have people on the ground. They don’t understand exactly what the work practices are at these factories,” he said.

Previous incidents

On Monday, another massive fire broke out at a petrochemical plant in Gansu Province. Authorities suspect the blaze was triggered by a leak at an air separation unit. The fire was later contained with no casualties.

Last Thursday, also at a chemicals factory and in Jiangsu Province, a fire broke out at a plant where several barrels of chemicals were being stored. No casualties were reported in that incident.

Worker safety has been a persistent issue in China. Last year a fire at a poultry market killed 119 people. In 2011, two explosions at factories manufacturing Apple products were caused by aluminum dust.

Better protection

Crothall said workers have begun demanding greater protection through China’s existing official trade union. “Now we are increasingly seeing that the official trade union in China, there is only one official trade union, does take a more proactive stance in ensuring workers rights and interests are protected,” he said.

Following Saturday’s explosion President Xi Jinping has demanded a full investigation and Premier Li Keqiang is demanding regular safety checks at factories throughout the country.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid