Disregard in Occupational Safety and Health Protection Continues to Haunt Chinese Workers
Occupational safety and health (OSH) of migrant workers has been a concern in the past years. In January 2017, a Chinese organization “Cocultivation Social Work Service Centre” released a research report, based on 1,410 visit reports of injured / sick workers compiled in 2016. Researchers visited victims of occupational hazards in 28 hospitals in Dongguan City over a span of 130 days in 2016, and revisited 80% of the workers to look into their background, labour conditions, rehabilitation and other aspects. The findings of this research are then put into this report.
Almost 60% (58.2%) of interviewees said their employers had not provided any OSH training and therefore accidents happened. In mainland China, lack of OSH training and inadequate information resulted in low awareness in work safety and caused frequent industrial accidents and occupational diseases. Last year, a female worker told the organization that she had never heard of the term “occupational disease” before she suffered from it. It is extremely rare that an enterprise would provide OSH training. In fact, when her enterprise organized a medical check-up for the workers, the company withheld the medical results and hence, transferred her to another post. It was not until her colleagues advised her to pay a visit at the Occupational Diseases Prevention Hospital that she discovered she had contracted occupational disease.
Nearly half (51.8%) of the interviewees told that their employers never provided any OSH protective gears to them. It is agreed by workers that industrial accidents are mainly caused by accidents, machinery malfunction, carelessness and other factors. The lack of protective gears, though not the direct cause of accidents, is leaving workers to face more unnecessary risks. According to China Labour Bulletin's (CLB) report, the most common injury or cause of deaths for construction workers is falling from height. If the employers would provide appropriate protective gears, such as independent safety belts, accidents can be prevented. However, most of the construction sites in China are not equipped with this type of protective gears and workers have to risk their lives at work.
The report also pointed out that overtime caused industrial accidents is a common problem in hardware, plastic, furniture, electronic and shoe factories. Extended overtimes wear workers out and increase the occurrence of industrial accidents. According to the CLB report, 3% of interviewees said their injuries were caused by extended overtime. It also quoted Xinhua News Agency's report in 2016, claiming that each year, 600,000 Chinese workers died from Karoshi (death from overwork). Among young victims, cases of heart failure have soared significantly. Peking Union Medical College said it might be caused by extended overtime.
Chinese workers still face a lot of challenge regarding OSH. Local governments often turn a blind eye when employers escape their responsibility to protect OSH. Thus, we urge the Chinese government to strengthen its law enforcement, to ensure enterprises are operating lawfully and workers' rights are protected.