Just three months after a massive explosion at automotive components factory in Kunshan killed at least 75 workers and injured 185 others, a fire at a food processing plant in Shandong has killed 18 workers and injured another 13.
The fire broke out on Sunday evening, 16 November, at Longyuan Food Co. Ltd.'s carrot packaging workshop in Shouguang, near Weifang, one of China’s main food processing centres.
The People’s Daily quoted a local restaurant owner as saying: “It was a big fire and many workers fled.” There were 140 people in the building at the time, four of whom remain unaccounted for.
The factory owners have been detained by police as the investigation into the cause of the fire continues, according to official media. On 18 November, state television’s “In focus” (焦点访谈) news program reported that local officials had earlier discovered several safety violations at the factory but that management had failed to rectify them. The reporter uncovered numerous hazards and talked to injured workers who had no safety training and were completely unprepared when the fire broke out. See video below.
Immediately following the Kunshan disaster, a group of labour activists and academics issued an open letter demanding that workers play a much more active role in supervising and ensuring workplace safety.
They pointed out that in nearly all workplace accidents in China both management and local government officials had failed to protect workers and as such it was now time to learn from other countries where workers play a prominent role in workplace safety committees along with management and local government officials.
The Shouguang disaster is the second major fire in the food processing industry in China in the last 18 months. A fire at a poultry processing plant in the north-eastern province of Jilin in June last year killed 121 people. The blaze was blamed on poor management, lack of government oversight, no worker training in fire safety, and locked exits.