China / Society

Illegal sales of fireworks scrutinized

By Xu Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-21 08:04

Smaller producers should leave market, association leader says

China's fireworks industry must phase out illegal family factories and enhance company branding to ensure the safety of its products, an association leader said after two blasts within a week killed at least 13 people and injured at least 60.

Three people were confirmed dead and another one remains missing after blasts destroyed a fireworks plant in Jiangxi province at around 0:30 am on Wednesday. Another 53 people were hospitalized, China Central Television reported.

The incident followed a blast at a fireworks factory that killed 10 people and injured another seven on Jan 14 in Kaifeng, Henan province.

"The country's fireworks industry is now standing at a major crossroads to reduce the small players and crack down on illegal factories," said Wu Zhengli, secretary-general of the China Fireworks and Firecrackers Association and a member of the National Work Safety Firecrackers Group.

An overwhelming majority of China's fireworks producers are small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 80 percent of the accidents involving fireworks factories were caused by illegal operations by small players, he said.

A preliminary investigation found that the Kaifeng factory had illegally rented property to unauthorized fireworks producers, the State Administration of Work Safety said in an online statement.

Illegal sales of fireworks scrutinized

China's fireworks production is concentrated in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. Private enterprises account for a majority of the production, according to the association.

"One of the major problems of the industry is that the major companies have not established brands to enable consumers to distinguish between products by legal companies and illegal ones. That gives breathing space for illegal companies to sell their products," he said.

That makes it crucial for legal companies to increase their branding efforts to reduce the market for illegal companies, he said.

China is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of fireworks and firecrackers, according to the association.

The country has about 4,000 producers of fireworks and firecrackers. About 400 producers are being eliminated each year due to a saturated market.

The production and sales of fireworks nationwide are already falling by 20 to 30 percent each year as local authorities impose bans on fireworks to reduce air pollution, he said.

Wang Haoshui, chief engineer with the work safety watchdog, said in an interview with Legal Daily in 2014 that the fireworks industry is the second-most deadly in China after coal mining. There were 24 accidents and 59 deaths in the first nine months of last year, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

A lack of training and expertise is also a major reason for the large number of accidents, Wu said.

"In Hunan and Jiangxi, most of the workers in the industry are migrants who were hired from nearby provinces. The fact that most factories suspend operations in the summer also increases the turnover of workers," he said.

Another major challenge faced by the fireworks industry is how to integrate the sales of products into e-commerce channels, he noted.

Some fireworks producers in Liuyang, Hunan province, have also taken to e-commerce platforms, including, to sell their products in Hunan province.

On Saturday, the police in Shanghai said they had captured 15 suspects who were allegedly using online platforms to sell fireworks illegally. The police also seized 5,334 boxes of fireworks.

Wu said the country currently has no clear regulation covering the sales of fireworks on e-commerce platforms, and the association is working on amendments to laws and regulations.

"We need to stipulate clearly how online sales can be conducted, and the safety of transportation must be the top issue," he said.

Major fireworks factory blasts

Jan 14, 2016

10 dead, 7 injured in Tongxu county, Henan province

July 12, 2015

22 dead, 25 injured in Ningjin county, Hebei province

Sept 22, 2014

14 dead, 33 injured in Liling, Hunan province; economic losses reached 16.7 million yuan ($2.5 million)

Aug 16, 2010

34 dead, 152 injured in Yichun, Heilongjiang province; economic losses estimated at 68.1 million yuan

Nov 10, 2007

11 dead, 2 injured in Liuyang, Hunan province

June 30, 2000

37 dead, 12 severely injured in Jiangmen, Guangdong province; economic losses estimated at 30 million yuan

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