On January 4, 2017, the State Council issued the Plan on Occupational Disease Prevention for Years 2016 to 2020. This plan follows the Guidance on Pushing Forward Reform and Development in Work Safety announced in December 2016. Together, the plan and the guidance signal China's clear intent to reduce occupational disease hazards and workplace accidents.

The plan aims to establish a system in which occupational disease prevention becomes a shared responsibility that includes government regulation, industry self-regulation, employer accountability, employee participation and public supervision. The plan also suggests improving laws and regulations on evaluating occupational disease hazards, examining employee health and diagnosing occupational diseases.

The guidance aims to strengthen laws, safety standards and government supervisory mechanisms to more effectively prevent workplace accidents. The guidance also suggests amendments to criminal laws to expand criminal liability for employers that fail to address potential safety hazards or refuse to follow instructions from the work safety administration.

Key take-away points:

The government appears to recognize the severity of occupational disease hazards and workplace accidents for both employees and society at large. Although the guidance and the plan are broad guidelines rather than finalized laws and regulations, they represent important steps toward creating those final laws and regulations to more effectively protect employee health and ensure workplace safety.