Only 20 percent of the 18 million workers employed in high-risk industries in China such as mining, hazardous chemicals, fireworks and metal smelting have received formal vocational training, the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) said in a report issued earlier this month.
The head of the MEM’s Basic Safety Office, Pei Wentian, pointed out that these industries had for too long relied on poorly educated and poorly trained workers, often rural migrant labourers, a practice that significantly heightened the risks of workplace accidents.
About 40 percent of workers in these high-risk industries did not have any basic safety skills, while 34 percent only had a middle school education or less. Problems were particularly apparent in small and medium-sized enterprises that did not have the ability or were unwilling to invest in proper skills training, Pei said.
In order to improve skill levels in the coal mining industry, the National Coal Mine Safety Administration (which is under the MEM) proposed increasing the proportion of vocational and technical college graduates in the industry to at least 30 percent and reducing the proportion of those with just a middle school education to under 40 percent. Those applying for positions specifically related to mine safety should all have at least a high school education.
Moreover, all new employees in coal mines should receive at least 72 hours safety training before starting work. Mine managers should have at least 30 training days within a three-year period, technical personnel 21 days, and all other employees 12 days exempted from normal work duties to undergo safety training, the Safety Administration said.
The MEM called on China’s 1,418 vocational colleges, 10,200 vocational schools, and 2,379 technical schools to provide better training for workers in high risk industries and establish majors in work safety management etc.
While better safety training for both managers and frontline staff in high-risk industries is essential, simply issuing more administrative guidelines is unlikely to improve safety if the desire for profit still outweighs all other concerns.
Just this week, the official media laid the blame for a coal mine gas explosion in Shanxi that killed 15 miners and injured another nine firmly with mine managers and owners who were “blinded by greed” and operating in areas of the mine that lacked adequate ventilation.
Another coal mine accident early this morning left 11 miners trapped. The accident occurred at 5.50.am at the Liangbaosi Mine in Jiaxiang county, Shandong, and rescue work is still underway at time of publication.