Work accidents kill tens of thousands of Chinese each year, and the number is growing. China's government is imposing new rules to make workplaces safer.

Wang Xianzheng, head of China's production safety administration, says that almost 100,000 people died in work-related accidents during the first nine months of this year. Mr. Wang tells reporters in Beijing Tuesday that accidental deaths in China have increased compared with last year. He says more than 80,000 of the deaths were from work-related road accidents.

Mr. Wang did not say how much accidental deaths have risen. Last month, however, state media reported that accidental deaths for the first seven months of the year were up 4.5 percent over last year. Mr. Wang says that coal mines are especially hazardous. He says mine explosions killed 4,500 Chinese workers in the first nine months of this year.

Government safety officials blame private operators of small and medium-sized coal mines for neglecting basic safety standards. Just last week, a mine explosion in Shanxi province killed at least 36 workers.

Some analysts say the rising accident numbers in China may be the result of more accurate statistics. But others think official figures under-report the number of deaths, in part because officials cover up accidents. The government is trying to cut the grim toll on workers. Mr. Wang says China has a severe work safety situation, and the government is taking new steps to improve conditions.

On Friday, a new law goes into effect to increase safety inspections at workplaces, and toughen penalties for managers who violate safety standards. The law focuses on smaller private companies, which the government says account for 60 percent of work place accidents.

Under the law, companies will have to set up work safety offices, and could be shut down if proper safety measures are not implemented.