By Mr. You Lixin,
Director General of Labor Protection Dept., ACFTU
I’d like to give you a brief introduction of labor protection work of Chinese trade unions from the following four aspects.
Firstly, we have focused on participation in legislation and policy-making, so as to reflect workers’ wishes and needs in occupational safety and health (OSH). Trade union organizations at various levels actively participate in policy-making and legislative development process to protect the occupational safety and health rights of workers at source. We have put forward our proposals in the process of enacting and revising laws and regulations such as Occupational Disease Prevention Law, Production Safety Law and Mine Safety Law as well as Regulation on Reporting, Investigation and Handling of Work Safety Accidents and Regulation on Work-Related Injury Insurances. Considering implications of working in hot weather on workers’ health, ACFTU proposed to the Ministerial Joint Meeting on occupational disease prevention work organized by the State Council that workers’ labor protection in hot weather shall be listed as one of the topics at the annual meeting, and promoted the joint issuing of Administrative Measures for the Heatstroke Prevention by relevant ministries and commissions.
Secondly, we have encouraged enterprises and workers to participate in work safety activities to improve workers’ self-protection awareness. Since 1999, ACFTU has joined hands with ministries and commissions concerned in carrying out a nationwide Competition named “Health and Safety Cup”. Such a competition aims to improve work place OSH management and raise workers’ health and safety awareness. Under the framework of the “Health and Safety Cup”, a series of activities have been organized and the number of the enterprises and workers involved have increased from 4000 and 5 million at the beginning to 384 000 and 94.7 million respectively in 2012. Thanks to those activities under “Health and Safety Cup” over the past 14 years, we have seen stronger awareness in work safety among managers, better knowledge on work safety and greater self-protection capabilities among workers, lower rate of occupational accidents and diseases among the involved enterprises. In particular, some coal, petrochemical, power and other high-risk enterprises registered zero deaths.
Thirdly, unions are more involved in occupational disease prevention. The Labour Protection Department of ACFTU and the National Disease Prevention and Control Center jointly had a study on “Union’s Role in Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment”. The results of the study gave important guidance on how unions can contribute to occupational disease prevention and treatment, especially at the enterprise level. The ACFTU is playing an important role in this area through calling for stricter labour inspection, urging enterprises to exercise self-discipline, and encourage local and enterprise unions to engage more in occupational disease prevention.
Fourthly, we have organized extensive awareness-raising activities and encouraged workers to eliminate hidden risks in workplaces. ACFTU called on workers to participate in workplace OSH management, eliminate hidden occupational hazards, and rectify dangerous operation behaviors. The capacity-building programmes organized by unions have helped to improve workers’ awareness and capacity on occupational accidents and hazards prevention and control. Unions have mobilized workers to identify and report occupational risks and hazards in high-risk sectors including mining, metallurgical, chemical, building materials, manufacturing, and SMEs. The hidden risks detected shall be rectified instantly where possible or written notification shall be given to enterprises concerned so as to urge for improvement. With regard to major risks, unions urge the enterprises to take emergency risk control measures, identify responsibility, and secure the fund for rectification measures. Unions constantly demand the enterprises to improve OSH management, solve the major problems endangering workers’ health, and keep on improving the working conditions.
New challenges and solutions
Currently, safety and occupational hazards exist mainly in non-public enterprises, especially SMEs. Labor protection is yet to be further strengthened. Violations of workers’ health and safety rights are to be better monitored and addressed.
At present, we are working on introducing ILO WISE toolkit which helps address occupational hazards in SMEs. Targeted at the prevalent workplace OSH problems in SMEs, the toolkit contains 132 solutions in 9 categories. ACFTU intends to, in cooperation with the National CDC, launch a three-year research program on applicability and dissemination of ILO’s OSH toolkit in SMEs. This program will select SMEs in industries with serious occupational hazards as a pilot, so as to promote the widespread application of this toolkit in China’s SMEs.