A Review of Occupational Safety and Health Legislation in China1

Article excerpt

Occupational safety and health (hereafter refered to as OSH) rights are a series of rights to which all labourers should be entitled with a view to guaranteeing their lives and health against occupational hazards.2 And OSH legislation refers to all the legal norms to protect OSH rights. It is clearly provided in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that

"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:., safe and healthy working conditions."3

As a signatory state, China is on the way to the perfection of its OSH legal system, and attempting to protect the rights as faultlessly as possible. Therefore, it is of great significance to study the general status quo of OSH legislation, probe its deficiencies and bring forward some suggestions.

BRIEF HISTORY AND STATUS QUO OF OSH LEGISLATION IN CHINA

Chinese OSH legislation began almost synchronistically with the establishment of the People's Republic of China. There were some OSH protective principles both in the Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (1949), which served as a provisional constitution, and the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (1954). Article 32 of the Common Program stated "...censorship shall be implemented to improve the safety and health equipment in factories and mines."4 Article 91 of the Constitution (1954) declared: "With the planned development of the national economy, the state shall ...better the labour conditions."5

In order to carry out these principles, OSH protective rules and regulations were promulgated by the Government Affairs Council of the time and States Council, of which the most important ones were "Three Sets of Regulations" and "Five Provisions," including Factory Safety and Health Regulations, Safety Technique Regulations of Construction and Installation Projects, Regulations on Report of Casualty of Labor and Personnel (together called "Three Sets of Regulations"), and Provisions on Enforcement of Work Safety in Enterprise Production of which the main contents are "provisions on responsibility of work safety, " "program on safety technical measures," "education of work safety," "periodical inspection on work safety," and "investigation and disposal of casualty accidents" (customarily called "Five Sets of Provisions" ).''

After the "Cultural Revolution," OSH legislation in China began to speed up. Being the matri-law of all other laws, the Constitution ( 1982) sets forth that "the state shall, by all means, ... enforce labour protection, improve labour conditions ..."7 As the embodiment of the constitutional ideas of OSH protection, a number of articles concerning OSH were contained in related laws. Chronologically they are:

* Criminal Law (1979.7);

* Maritime Traffic Safety Law (1983.9);

* Forestry Law (1984.9);

* Mineral Resources Law (1986.3);

* Law on Industrial Enterprises Owned by the Whole People (1988.4);

* Standardization Law (1988.12);

* Environmental Protection Law (1989.12);

* Railway Law (1990.9);

* Trade Union Law (1992.4);

* Law on Protection of Rights and Interests of Women (1992.4);

* Electric Power Law (1995.12);

* Law on Coal Industry (1996.8);

* Construction Law (1997.11);

* Fire Protection Law (1998.4); and

* Law on Road Traffic Safety (2003.10).

In addition to those laws mentioned above, following are additional important laws with regard to OSH concerns.

The first specialized occupational safety law is Law of the People's Republic of China on Safety in Mines, which was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National Congress on November 7, 1992, and put in force on May 1, 1993. In this law, a series of important matters are stipulated, including safety guarantee of mine construction, safety guarantee of mine exploitation, safety management in mine enterprises, safety supervision and management by government, and the disposal of mine safety accidents. …