Excellent post over at Shanghai Scrap, by Adam Minter. The post is aptly entitled, Shandong to Dead Workers: Blame Yourselves, and it details a recent explosion at a Shandong aluminum plant that killed nine and injured 64.
Shandong province’s “safety watchdog” blames worker negligence and Shanghai Scrap makes the following point, with which I concur:
If worker error was responsible for the accident, that error could only have occurred if there was a fatal design or safety flaw in the plant itself.
I do not claim to be expert in aluminum plants, but it seems very unlikely that the plant itself does not bear at least some responsibility for setting up operations that allow worker negligence (which has to be expected) to kill and injure so many.
Whenever I read something like this, I cannot help but think that if China’s legal system allowed its injured to recover real damages, incidents like this would start decreasing rapidly. Now before you assail me for wanting to bring U.S. style tort litigation to China, please at least ponder why it is that worker safety has improved so greatly in the United States in the last 50 years.
I would particularly love to hear form non-lawyers on this issue. Should China liberalize its tort laws? And if it did, what impact would that have on foreign investment? On foreign companies doing business in China? Are China lawyers calling for these changes?