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August 9, 2009

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Mine safety focus in joint new probe

CHINA'S trade union federation and its coal mine safety watchdog will jointly launch a survey this month to investigate working conditions in the country's major mines, including occupational hazards faced by millions of workers.

The All China Federation of Trade Unions and the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said the two-month investigation would begin this month in randomly-chosen mines of nine big state-owned producers.

They did not give the names of the mines.

The investigation aims to identify major problems and to prevent and control occupational hazards, including industrial diseases associated with coal production.

Researchers want to ascertain if coal mine administrators have set up regulations to control established agencies specializing in work hazards in the mines and how they are operated.

Working conditions, the use of protective devices, hazards monitoring and reporting systems, and education and training on hazard prevention will also be investigated.

Though unrelated, the move comes not long after a worker's plight sparked a nationwide demand for better protection of workers exposed to dangerous working conditions.

Zhang Haichao, 28, made headlines in China in recent weeks after fighting two years for treatment and compensation after contracting pneumoconiosis, a debilitating lung disease, from working at a brick factory in central China's Henan Province.

Results of an initial medical check, which confirmed work-related pneumoconiosis, were suppressed by the employer. Further, a local agency for occupational disease control failed to provide supporting evidence or to press the factory to compensate Zhang.

He was eventually given treatment and compensation after undergoing a thoracotomy, an operation to gain access to the lungs.

As a result, at least six local health officials and doctors were either sacked or suspended. Health experts fear many workers, particularly migrants, suffer similar problems.


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