China is on the verge of overtaking the U.S. as the world’s top manufacturer. Some use Chinese competition as a reason why OSHA’s regulations shouldn’t be stricter. However, a recent newspaper article paints a picture of workplace safety in China that no one would want.
China doesn’t lack workplace safety regulations. The problem for workers is that they’re not enforced.
It’s often up to local authorities in China to enforce the country’s safety laws, according to the article in The Washington Times. Local officials are often paid off by factory owners to ignore serious injuries and even deaths.
This gives Chinese manufacturing a short-term advantage over the U.S., but the cost is life and limb.
Example: The China Labor Bulletin (CLB) recently reported on a worker who got a finger caught in some equipment and was sent to a hospital. It was cheaper for the company to compensate the unconscious worker for a lost hand than to surgically repair his finger.
When the worker woke up, his hand was gone.
The CLB also reports, “It is much more cost-effective for coal mine owners to buy off the families … than risk closure by reporting an accident,” leaving many deaths overlooked. Local governments often pressure bereaved families into signing compensation agreements.
The owners’ priority: Keep production moving.
And here’s another interesting factoid from the article: Some labor laws put into effect in China in 2008 used input from U.S. laws.