China orders national safety overhaul after deadly blast at GM supplier

BEIJING (Bloomberg) -- China ordered a nationwide overhaul of safety practices at factories handling explosive materials following a fatal blast at an auto parts factory near Shanghai, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The campaign will target factories that use potentially flammable materials including aluminum, magnesium, coal, wood, paper, tobacco, cotton and plastic, the state-run agency said late Monday, citing the State Council Work Safety Commission.

The explosion last week at a factory owned by Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co. killed 75 and injured 185 people as of Monday, according to Xinhua. An initial investigation showed the factory buildings of Zhongrong, an indirect supplier of General Motors Co., failed to meet safety provisions, with overcrowded workshops and a shortage of equipment to remove metal dust, Xinhua said.

President Xi Jinping demanded harsh punishment for those responsible for the explosion and sent a team headed by Wang Yong, one of China’s five state councilors, to oversee rescue work and investigate the accident, according to Xinhua. The accident, China’s deadliest industrial disaster of the year, underscores calls by Premier Li Keqiang for safety improvements in the world’s second-largest economy.

The government of Jiangsu province, where the explosion happened, ordered all aluminum and magnesium processing workshops to halt production and conduct safety checks, according to a notice posted on the Suzhou work safety administration’s website.

19 Incidents

The Kunshan Zhongrong plant, located in a development zone in Kunshan city, about 30 miles west of Shanghai, employs 450 people, according to its Web site. The company produces parts for Citic Dicastal Co., a global supplier to GM. The automaker has extended its sympathy to families of the victims.

China had 19 serious safety incidents in the first six months of this year, leaving more than 200 people dead or missing, Xinhua said on its microblog Aug. 2.

A fire at a poultry plant in the northeastern province of Jilin in June last year left 120 people dead, and an explosion at a China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. pipeline in the eastern city of Qingdao in November killed 62.

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