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China: Unsafe practices highlighted in firework plant explosions

Date: 23 Sep 2003

According to the China Labour Bulletin, four separate explosions took place in fireworks factories in various parts of China in the space of a single week, leading to the death of at least 31 people. The report came as the State Administration of Work Safety reported that the number of fatal accidents in some industries has increased, in spite of government actions to seek to reduce these.

The recent explosions included one in Hebei province at the Guoxi Fireworks Factory, which killed at least 29 people, and was reported to have been caused by the ignition of gunpowder that had been spread out to dry in the sun.

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s biggest producer of fireworks. Firework factories are often small and locally owned, employing young people and often outsourcing production to small workshops in closely packed residential areas.

According to the Bulletin, although some factories pride themselves in producing high quality fireworks conforming to international safety specifications for export, little thought is often given to the safety of workers in the factories. The situation of work safety in the fireworks industry remains appalling and there are regular explosions which kill and maim dozens of people. In addition, because a great deal of firework production often involves child labour and takes place in the homes of individual villagers, the accidents often also kill and maim children who either live in the homes involved or work in the small workshops.

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