Workplace accidents and deaths in China dropped in the first half of this year as the government stepped up inspections, the top safety watchdog said on Thursday.
The number of workplace accidents from January to June plunged by 25.4 percent year-on-year to 2,240, while the death toll in those accidents dropped by 17.4 percent to 1,620, Su Jie, a State Administration of Work Safety official, said at a news conference.
"The work safety situation improved in most provincial regions. Both the number of accidents and the death toll declined in 22 of the 32 provincial regions monitored, and no major accident happened in 21 of them," Su said.
The improvements were the result of more rigorous safety inspections, she said, adding that 40 new clauses have been added to inspection regulations so far in 2017.
She noted that 24 enterprises were shut down in 16 provincial regions, and production at 53 enterprises was suspended over safety hazards.
"Many of the accidents this year happened because of illegal production. Some happened in enterprises that operated without authorization, and some failed to follow procedures required by State laws or regulations," Su said. Some workers also died because of improper rescue techniques, she added.
Su said a four-month inspection mechanism was renewed in July in the government's latest effort to ensure work safety－a requirement of the State Council, China's Cabinet.
The administration had inspected 5,476 coal mines, or 67 percent of the country's total, as of the end of June. Inspectors found 886 safety hazards, and the administration levied total fines of nearly 140 million yuan (.8 million), said Xue Jianguang, spokesman for the administration.
He said gas explosions were to blame in six of the 13 major accidents in coal mines this year.
Small coal mines were singled out as a particular problem.
"It has been a problem that some small coal mines violated laws and regulations, yet continued to operate after being ordered to suspend production," he said.
"Of the seven major accidents that occurred in small coal mines, three happened in mines that had resumed operations without the approval of authorities," he added.
He said the administration is continuing to weed out small coal mines with an annual output of less than 90,000 metric tons.