Legal & Regulatory

Arrests Made After Scaffold Collapse Kills 74 Workers at Chinese Power Plant

Nine people, including the chairman and chief engineer of the Fengcheng power plant, have been arrested following a scaffold collapse that killed 74 construction workers on November 24.

The scaffold platform had been erected to facilitate work on a cooling tower that was being constructed at the plant located in Yichun City, Jiangxi Province. According to a CCTV newscast, more than 60 people were working on the platform, and more than a dozen were on the ground waiting for their 7 a.m. shift to start, when the scaffold collapsed.

China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that the victims ranged in age from 23 to 53 years old, with most under the age of 36. More than 300 rescuers, two drones, four sniffer dogs, and seven cranes were said to have been involved in the search and rescue effort.

Following the accident on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident leaving “no stone unturned.” Xi reportedly stressed that local governments must learn from this and a number of other recent work safety accidents that have occurred. He said efforts should be made to ensure the safety of people’s lives and their property, according to Xinhua.

The president’s order seems to have been heard loud and clear. Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai, State Councilor Guo Shengkun, and State Councilor Wang Yong met Sunday to direct safety watchdogs nationwide to launch thorough work safety checks in an effort to curb severe accidents and plug holes in safety standards.

Xinhua reported that increased supervision, inspection, and accountability were stressed as ways to improve workplace safety. Soon after the meeting, the announcement was made that nine people had been arrested in connection with the accident at the Fengcheng plant.

In a statement, broadcast by CCTV, Li Yihuang, deputy governor of Jiangxi Province, said that construction of the 165-meter-tall cooling tower began in April 2016. It is currently about 40% complete (Figure 1). CCTV’s Sean Callebs reported that the company responsible for the project had recently accelerated work at Fengcheng in what was touted as “the 100-day dash.” Such efforts have rarely resulted in increased safety at construction sites.

1. Work in progress.
The Fengcheng power plant cooling tower in which the scaffold collapse occurred has been under construction since April and currently stands about 70 meters tall. Source: CCTV America

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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