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December 15, 2009

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Ministry order for silicosis checks

THE state health watchdog has demanded immediate action in the case of 149 migrant workers refused checks for an occupational disease after China Central Television criticized the local authority's failure to protect their rights and their health.

The Ministry of Health has ordered the Guangdong authority to investigate the incident where workers from central China's Hunan Province hired to operate jack hammers or handle blasting in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, were refused medical checks for silicosis as more than 70 percent of them had not signed contracts with their employers and couldn't prove their employment, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.

Silicosis is a form of lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust and characterized by shortness of breath, fever and bluish skin.

Ministry of Health spokesman Deng Haihua told CCTV on Friday that the ministry had learned of the situation via media reports and was highly concerned over the issue.


The ministry has asked Guangdong's health department to deal with the situation, including offering the workers check-ups, diagnosis and providing medical treatment for patients, Deng said.

The ministry had also sent experts to Shenzhen to assist local authorities in coping with the situation, Deng added.

Eighteen of the workers appeared at five tribunals of Shenzhen's arbitration center on Saturday. They showed the tribunals evidence, including working licenses and employee cards, but it was argued by the alleged employers that they were counterfeit.

At the hearings, five employers denied they had employed the workers, the report said.

It was normal practice among constructors in Shenzhen to hire unlicensed workers for drilling and blasts, the newspaper quoted an industry insider as saying.

The Shenzhen government began a two-week campaign on Thursday to crack down on irregularities in occupational disease prevention, employment, wages, work safety and social insurance. Some building sites had improved working conditions and set up contracts and insurance for workers, the report said.


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