China has experienced a significant drop in the number of casualties involving workplace accidents or natural disasters since 2018, Wang Xiangxi, Minister of Emergency Management, said on Thursday.
The number of workplace accidents from 2018 to 2022 dropped by 80.8 percent compared with the previous 5-year period, he told a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office. Casualties decreased by 51.4 percent.
Compared to the period between 2013 and 2017, the number of people killed or missing as a result of natural disasters declined by about 54.3 percent over the past five years.
Wang stressed giving priority to prevention as one of the major approaches the ministry has followed since it was established in 2018 following an institutional reshuffle of the State Council, the country's Cabinet. It took on 13 responsibilities from 11 government bodies, mostly related to disaster relief.
The ministry has installed online monitoring facilities in 6,900 companies that use hazardous chemicals, 3,400 coal mines and 2,400 tailings ponds. The systems are able to automatically detect abnormalities.
Wang said the ministry has also rolled out a series of campaigns to eliminate safety hazards. For instance, it has dispatched 20 teams to help local governments across the country improve governance of welding and cutting, which were responsible for a number of deadly fires recently.
He also highlighted the role emergency response forces have played in dealing with workplace accidents and natural disasters.
The National Comprehensive Fire and Rescue Team now has 5,000 squads across the country with expertise in aquatic, mountain and earthquake rescue operations, he said.
Their equipment has been substantially upgraded, he said, and drones, large pumps and rescue robots are now commonly used in rescue operations.
Aside from the official rescue forces, professional rescue teams have been created by companies and civil society organizations, the minister said. In State-owned companies, for example, 102 rescue teams have been created to deal with workplace accidents in a number of hazardous industries, including the mining, chemical and tunnel construction industries.
"What's more, civilian rescue forces are now integrated in the national emergency response system," he said. "Currently, there are around 2,300 civilian rescue teams with some 50,000 rescuers part of the system."
A mechanism for coordination has also been established between the ministry and the army. During major disasters, different types of rescue forces generally conduct joint operations.
"Currently, the situation for workplace safety and disaster prevention and mitigation is generally stable," he said. "But we are still confronted with complications."
With its energy structure dominated by coal, China now has more than 4,400 coal mines, he said, one-third of which suffer from marsh gas, which has methane, a flammable greenhouse gas, as a main component.
Among the 30,000 mines that don't produce coal, 80 percent are small and have poor infrastructure. There are now 11,000 chemical companies, almost 7,000 of which are subject to a high level of safety hazard.
The ministry will endeavor to "shore up weak spots", "close loopholes" and "remove safety hazards" and implement precautionary measures in a more detailed manner to raise public safety management, he said.