China Labour Bulletin’s Work Accident Map has recorded 38 explosions so far this year, an average of about one incident every six days.
In the latest incident, at least 13 people were killed when a huge explosion hit a chemical plant in the Shandong city of Dongying just before midnight on 31 August. The official Dongying News said that six executives from Shandong Binyuan Chemical that runs the factory in Lijin county had been detained and that the cause of the explosion was under investigation.
Explosion at Shandong Binyuan Chemical in Dongying on 31 August. Photo from Sina Weibo.
The Dongying incident came just one week after another chemical plant explosion in Shandong killed one person and injured nine others in the city of Zibo on 23 August.
By far the largest explosion this year occurred less than three weeks ago on 12 August at the Ruihai Logistics warehouse in Tianjin which killed at least 158 people, including 94 firefighters. The Tianjin Daily reported that a secondary fire broke out at the blast site on 31 August but was soon extinguished.
In all, CLB has recorded ten explosions at chemical plants and warehouses this year. There were, in addition, six explosions in coal mines with the most serious incident being a gas explosion in Pu’an, Guizhou on 11 August which killed at least 12 miners. There were also four separate explosions at firework factories, including a major incident in Ningjin, Hebei, which killed 15 workers and injured 25 others on 12 July.
It is important however to note that explosions accounted for just 11 percent of the total 346 workplace accidents recorded by CLB so far this year. Most incidents involved some kind of structural or mechanical failure and had a small number of fatalities.
Although each incident had its own very specific causes, some common factors include a lack of maintenance and routine safety precautions, poor training and the disregard of work safety laws and regulations in the push for higher productivity and profit.
In an example of just how lax safety standards are in China, the Global Times reported on 31 August that there were more than a thousand companies involved in the handling or manufacture of dangerous chemicals located in densely populated areas, in violation of regulations, that had been ordered to relocate since 2014. However the newspaper failed to specify how many companies, if any, had actually complied with the order.