18 April 2013

China faces continuing safety challenges

Wang Haoshui

The scale of the safety challenges faced by the chemical industry in China has been highlighted this week in a major speech by a leading state official responsible for work safety in China.

In just over a decade, between 2000 and 2011, the value of China’s chemical output has increased by nearly five times. The country is now the world’s leading producer of chemical products, accounting for around a quarter (€893 billion) of all global output in 2011.

Speaking at the 2nd Hazards Asia Pacific Symposium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week, Haoshui Wang, director general of 3rd division (hazardous chemicals) work safety supervision, state administration of work safety (SAWS), outlined the significant safety challenges faced by the chemical industry in China throughout this unprecedented period of growth, including:

  • large scale, intensive nature of Chinese chemical plants;
  • accelerating urbanisation in China around existing chemical plants;
  • the weakness of overall work safety infrastructure in Chinese chemical production;
  • the rapid growth of new chemical sectors; 
  • the safety management of chemical industry parks; and
  • the lack of process safety professionals in China.

Wang said: “Since 2006, the output value of the chemical industry has maintained a rapid growth (average annual growth rate of 15.1%), and at the same time the number of deaths caused by hazardous chemical accidents has been reduced for five consecutive years.

“The total number of deaths caused by hazardous chemical accidents national-wide has been decreased from 277 in 2006 to 99 in 2012, indicating that China has been working hard to ensure the chemical industry to be safe and its development to be sustainable.

“We recognize that the total number of accidents in Chinese chemical industry accidents is still high, and there is a big gap between the expectations of the people in China and current safety status…”

Wang used the opportunity to describe the wide-ranging measures the Government and chemical industry were taking to address safety issues in China.

He said: “Compared with the developed countries, the research and application of process safety techniques in China started rather late, however, by integration of the available resources at Chinese universities and major chemical enterprises more and more people in China will be trained and become safety professionals capable to work in chemical industry.

“While trying its best to sustain the fast speed of the chemical industry development, the Chinese government intensifies the enterprise liability and government regulatory responsibility for safety, and also introduces integrating measures to actively deal with the risks and challenges from the chemical industry for safety of production.”

The 2nd Hazards Asia Pacific Symposium in Kuala Lumpur is jointly organised, by the Chemical Industry Council of Malaysia (CICM) and IChemE.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).