Safety hazards at Beijing chemical firms

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier in protection suit spraying liquid on the debris at the site of last week's blasts in Tianjin, China, on Aug 21, 2015.
A People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier in protection suit spraying liquid on the debris at the site of last week's blasts in Tianjin, China, on Aug 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI • Safety hazards have been found at almost 70 per cent of firms handling dangerous chemicals inspected in Beijing since two massive blasts killed 116 people last week. They included a branch of Asia's largest refiner Sinopec Corp, state media reported.

An inspection of 124 sites in the Chinese capital found hazards at 85 firms, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday, citing Beijing's work safety bureau.

Two of those firms were shut after inspectors found they did not meet appropriate safety standards.

The inspections were ordered after two huge explosions devastated an industrial park in the north-eastern port city of Tianjin last week.

Inspectors found that security personnel at the Beijing branch of Sinopec Corp were unfamiliar with how to handle an oil tank fire, Xinhua said. Employees were also found smoking in dormitories near the facility, it said.

"Companies that fail our inspections will be ordered to suspend operations, and their warehouses will be put under 24-hour surveillance," Mr Qian Shan, vice-head of the Beijing work safety bureau, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Despite the infractions found at the Sinopec branch, Xinhua did not say that the facility would be shut.

Beijing has also suspended operations at firms that make or deal in highly toxic chemicals and explosives from Monday to Sept 6 in preparation for a military parade and athletics event, Xinhua said.

The blasts at Tianjin, the world's 10th-busiest port and the gateway to China's industrial north-east, prompted a nationwide review of China's industrial safety record, which has struggled to keep pace with the breakneck speed of economic growth.

China has struggled in recent years with accidents and President Xi Jinping has vowed that the authorities should learn the lessons paid for with blood.

A nationwide inspection of facilities handling dangerous chemicals and explosives was ordered by the State Council a week ago. It said in a statement on Thursday that advanced equipment and the best expertise needed to be used to prevent major environmental incidents in future.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'Safety hazards at Beijing chemical firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe