On 24 March 2015, the PRC State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), the highest authority in China in charge of work safety and prevention and control of occupational health hazards of enterprises, issued the Eight Rules on Control and Prevention of Occupational Health Hazards of Enterprises (“the Eight Rules”). The Eight Rules include eight “MUSTs” and eight “PROHIBITIONs”. The details are as follows:
An enterprise MUST
- Establish a responsibility system for the prevention and control of occupational health hazards and is PROHIBITED from engaging in production in breach of laws or regulations without defining responsibilities;
- Ensure that the workplace meets relevant occupational health requirements and is PROHIBITED from arranging employees to work in an environment which does not meet occupational health standards;
- Set up occupational disease protection facilities and keep such facilities work effectively and is PROHIBITED from failing to deploy or use such facilities;
- Provide its employees with labour protection supplies in compliance with the occupational health standards and is PROHIBITED from distributing fake, counterfeit or poor quality products;
- Set up warning signs and notification cards in the workplace and at the work positions of its employees and is PROHIBITED from concealing any information of occupational health hazards;
- Conduct regular inspection on occupational health hazards in the workplace and is PROHIBITED from fabricating false records or skipping over any or all items of the inspection;
- Expose its employees to occupational health trainings and is PROHIBITED from allowing any employee to assume his duties without going through such trainings or gaining competence as the result of the trainings; and
- Expose its employees to occupational health examinations and make track records for its employees and is PROHIBITED from failing to conduct such examinations or to make such records.
The Eight Rules are not enforceable administrative regulations but summarise the key mandatory responsibilities of enterprises provided by the PRC Law on the Prevention & Control of Occupational Diseases and its implementation rules and regulations. Any breach of the Eight Rules will subject an enterprise to legal liabilities provided by the relevant laws and regulations.
For example, according to the above Item (2), an enterprise is required to ensure that the workplace meets relevant occupational health requirements and is not allowed to arrange the employees to work in environments which do not meet the occupational health standards. If an enterprise does not comply with the above rules causing the intensity or density of occupational health hazards to surpass the occupational health standards, according to Article 73 (1) of the PRC Law on the Prevention & Control of Occupational Diseases, the competent work safety administrative authority is entitled to give a warning or order the enterprise to make rectification within a time limit. If the enterprise fails to make such rectification, it can be subject to penalties from RMB 50,000 to RMB 200,000. In serious cases, the enterprise can be required to stop such production which causes occupational health hazards, or even to shut down the business.
The legal liabilities stated above also apply in case an enterprise fails to set up warning signs and notification cards in the workplace as mentioned in Item 5 of the Eight Rules. If an enterprise wants to know how to correctly set up the warning signs and notification cards in the work place, it shall refer to the detailed provisions in Article 25 of the PRC Law on the Prevention & Control of Occupational Diseases, the Administration Regulations on Supervision of Occupational Health Situation at Workplace and the Administration Rules on Notification of Occupational Health Hazards and Warning Signs.
Based on the above, the Eight Rules only provide the basic guidelines for enterprises. As to how to implement such responsibilities, the enterprises shall refer to specific laws and regulations. However, the Eight Rules issued by the SAWS show the major focus of the Chinese government in the area of prevention and control of occupational diseases. According to the PRC Law on the Prevention & Control of Occupational Diseases, the competent work safety administrative authority is entitled to enter an enterprise’s workplace to learn about the work conditions, perform investigations and collect evidence on site. Therefore, the items stated in the Eight Rules are expected to be the focus of any inspection by the authority.
According to the PRC Law on the Prevention & Control of Occupational Diseases, if an enterprise violates the requirements of the law causing major occupational disease accidents or other serious consequences, the enterprise can be subject to severe legal liabilities. In addition, the directly responsible supervisors and other directly responsible personnel can be subject to criminal liabilities. Therefore, enterprises doing business in China, especially manufacturing enterprises, shall pay great attention to the prevention and control of occupational diseases, and shall implement their responsibilities as provided by the relevant PRC laws and regulations, in particular, the core requirements stipulated in the Eight Rules must be satisfied.