The Challenge of Managing China's Workplace Safety

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2004


China is the world's most populous nation (about 1.3 billion people, or one in five people on Earth), with the world's largest potential market. The purposes of this article are to report on available occupational safety and health (OSH) data from China, and analyze macro and micro causes of the OSH problems and offer some constructive macro and micro action steps. While the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic led to hundreds of occupation-related deaths and illnesses, the historical pattern of growing workplace fatalities has dimmed the glow of China's dynamic economic progress. There were 65,000 fatal industrial accidents in China between 1988 and 1992; the number skyrocketed to 13,385 in 1993 from 7,653 in 1991. A number of factors continue to affect current and future economic growth. There are macro and micro causes of China's problems in OSH. Among the macroeconomic causes are an authoritarian political-economic infrastructure and disrespect for law. The action steps at the microeconomic level include building responsible business competencies and empowering human resource leadership.



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