China's senior lawmakers stressed the need to tighten workplace safety supervision and punishments for offenders when discussing a draft law amendment on Thursday.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) held panel discussions about the draft amendment to the workplace safety law, which was tabled for the first reading at the committee's bi-monthly session.
Lawmakers called for a clear definition and division of liabilities concerning workplace safety.
The bill holds that the employer bears the first and most important responsibility to protect workplace safety, which is good, but it should also clarify the roles of the government regulator, trade organizations and individuals, said Liu Binjie, a NPC Standing Committee member.
Without a clear definition, it would be hard to decide who is held responsible for a workplace accident, he said.
Yan Junqi, another NPC Standing Committee member, argued that the law should consider arrangements to make sure every party related to workplace safety, the employer, government, trade union and trade organization, not only exercise their own duty but also supervise one another.
She also suggested that the law compel the regulator to publish information about employers' previous offences and punishments, so that the public can supervise.
This is the first attempt to revise the law since it took effect in 2002.
Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, told lawmakers at the session on Tuesday that the revision is needed since the country has a high incidence of workplace accidents and fails to prevent ones that result in serious casualties.
According to the administration, last year it investigated 44 serious workplace accidents and about 300 people were prosecuted.
One of the most shocking accidents was a pipeline explosion in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao in November that claimed 62 lives. Altogether, 63 people have been punished, including 15 being prosecuted.
Compared with the existing law, the bill increases fines for a number of types of malpractice.
Some lawmakers argued that, besides increasing fines, the law should also resort to criminal prosecution.
Mo Wenxiu, NPC Standing Committee member, said that the criminal penalty on individuals directly responsible for serious workplace accidents is relatively light and there are many cases where the authorities would rather fine employers heavily than prosecute them.
"Criminal penalty, administrative punishment and fines are effective means to deter and punish offenders. They should all be given full play," she said.
Liu Binjie also called for improving the awareness of workplace safety among the public.
"Human life tops everything. Such a perception is still not deeply rooted in our society. We should work hard to promote it," he said.