Safety compliance in energy infrastructure development

By Du Jiahong, Starrise Law Firm
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After years of development, China has become the world’s largest producer of energy, with a diverse energy supply system both domestically and internationally. Not only has it achieved a cross-regional energy layout within the country, but it has also gradually established a network for energy supply overseas. Regardless of the various classifications of energy, complex infrastructure is essential for its production, transformation and utilisation.

Different types of energy require vastly different infrastructures. This difference is evident not only in the functional and technical attributes of the infrastructure but also in the approval, construction and usage of different types of projects.

For instance, in the construction of mines, projects must adhere to general regulations such as the Land Administration Law, the Urban and Rural Planning Law, the Building Act, the Measures for the Administration of Construction Permits for Construction Projects, and the Regulations on Quality Management of Construction Projects, along with specific provisions like those outlined in the Management Measures for Completion Acceptance of Coal Mine Construction Projects. Additionally, acquiring approval for capacity replacement procedures is necessary to complete the final acceptance.

Du Jiahong
Du Jiahong
Founding Partner
Starrise Law Firm
Tel: +86 150 1070 4360
E-mail:
dujiahong@xinglailaw.com

In the process of constructing energy infrastructure, aside from the differences across infrastructure types, there are commonalities that cannot be ignored. For instance, safety compliance issues are unavoidable in the construction of all energy infrastructure projects.

Although different types of energy infrastructure may have slight variations in safety standards and requirements, they should generally adhere to basic safety protection norms. When observing the energy infrastructure market and considering factors such as government performance and the cost recovery of social investments, project duration typically emerges as the primary concern in energy infrastructure development. This is especially true in the case of new-energy infrastructure projects.

In recent years, a large number of new-energy infrastructure projects have been completed and put into operation. To gain a competitive edge in the market, compressing project timelines has become a significant issue in energy infrastructure construction. However, this not only affects the quality but also inevitably impacts the safety of a project. For example, concurrent operations significantly increase
safety risks.

In recent years, there have been frequent safety incidents in infrastructure construction. Once serious safety incidents occur, they can lead to severe consequences such as casualties and significant property losses.

Many safety incidents in infrastructure construction occur due to the lack of bottom-line thinking regarding safety protection, disregard for the opinions of safety management personnel, and neglect of supervision and inspection of safety protection, which could have prevented the incidents from happening in the first place.

In the field of energy infrastructure construction, safety compliance should be established and adhered to as bottom-line thinking. During the construction process, priority should be given to ensuring safety compliance. At least the following aspects should be addressed in infrastructure safety protection management.

Establishment and improvement of safe production systems. Compliance requires a framework of rules to follow, encompassing both external regulations and internal provisions. Typically, compliance primarily follows external regulations.

However, in terms of safety protection, different types of energy infrastructure projects need to develop safe production systems that fully integrate relevant external regulations according to their own characteristics. Therefore, the primary prerequisite for safety compliance is the establishment of safe production systems and ensuring their systematic and comprehensive nature. These systems should be regularly updated and improved to ensure that all personnel have clear guidelines to follow.

Clarification of safety protection responsibilities. The system of safety protection responsibilities is explicitly established by China’s Work Safety Law and related safety regulations. According to current Chinese laws and regulations, the main person in charge of an enterprise, safety management departments and chief compliance officers all bear relevant responsibilities for safety management.

Enterprises should combine external legal requirements with internal needs to clearly define the hierarchical arrangement of safety protection responsibility systems, ensuring that safety responsibilities are implemented at each level.

Establishment of various operational mechanisms. Safety compliance relies on the effective operation of various mechanisms. During the construction of energy infrastructure, corresponding safety operational mechanisms should be established and ensured to function effectively. These mechanisms should operate in a manner that is rule-based and sustainable.

While operational mechanisms formed by different enterprises may vary based on different management objectives, energy infrastructure companies should, at a minimum, establish mechanisms such as safety inspections, safety issue early warnings, safety issue rectification, accident investigation and handling, safety risk grading and control, subcontract management, and safety assessment.

Promotion and establishment of safety culture concepts. The underlying reason for non-standard safety protection management by energy infrastructure enterprises is often insufficient emphasis placed on safety. Deeply promoting and establishing safety culture concepts can truly guide all personnel towards safety.

In the dissemination and popularisation of safety culture concepts, leaders should set an example, and all personnel should be made to value safety through ongoing communication, enhanced training and increasing emphasis, making safety the bottom line.

Once accidents occur in energy infrastructure construction, the resulting economic losses are immeasurable. Faced with the rapidly growing energy infrastructure industry, especially the new-energy infrastructure industry, relevant enterprises should not only focus on project timelines, engineering quality and response capabilities, but also constantly pay attention to safety issues and safety management capabilities, establishing bottom-line thinking towards safety.


Du Jiahong is a founding partner at Starrise Law Firm. She can be contacted at +86 150 1070 4360 or by e-mail at dujiahong@xinglailaw.com

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