The day after its inauguration ceremony, a huge 600-ton gantry crane collapsed while being installed at a plant belonging to the Hudong Shipbuilding Group Co. in Shanghai. The accident occurred on July 17th, 2001 and killed 22 workers outright. By July 19th, the death toll had risen to 36. Twenty of the dead were employees of the shipyard and the remainder were technicians and experts from the Shanghai Power Construction Engineering Company and Shanghais Tongji University.
The accident happened while workers were repairing a steel rope linking one leg of the crane with a crossbeam. Tang Weigeng, a 33-year old worker at the site told the Shanghai Daily I was standing on the cranes crossbeam pulling a steel rope. Then it suddenly broke and I felt I was falling.
Health and safety at work is a major issue in China, a situation not helped by the banning of independent trade unions or labour NGOs. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MOLSS), there are approximately 20,000 fatalities each year resulting from industrial accidents. A study carried out by the MOLSSs predecessor, the Ministry of Labour, found that the annual rate of fatal accidents in township and village enterprises (TVEs) is around 1 per thousand workers, four to five times higher than that of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
(China: Shanghai Daily, 17/07/01; HK: SCMP 19/07/01, www.ilo.org)