Reports out of Southern China today tell us that a construction elevator malfunctioned and fell 30 stories, killing 19 workers trapped inside. As tragic as that is, it barely makes a statistical blip on the master chart of fatalities in that country this year.

Shockingly, almost 76,000 people were killed on the job in China last year. That is almost 2000% higher than the death rate here in the United States.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of them were making iPhones and iPads at the Foxconn facilities there, but a few of those are on the list. In 2010, as many as 18 Foxconn workers committed suicide while on the job. The problem is so bad that the taller buildings on the Foxconn campus have been ringed with safety netting under the windows, to discourage open jumping without permission. Indeed, 300 workers at a Foxconn plant making Xbox 360's threatened mass suicide in a dispute over compensation earlier this year.

It almost gives you the sensation that this might not be a culture that fully values safety or human life.

While it is difficult not to impose our own values and standards on other nations and cultures, we have to remember that China is in many ways still a third world nation; a third world nation that has rocketed into a major economic position without the benefit of time, trial and tribulation to adjust and adapt their systems appropriately. They are not alone in this situation.

Two apparel factory fires in Pakistan this week killed over 300 workers, many of whom were trapped by locked doors and barred windows. I could not help but think of immediate comparisons to our own historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire from just over 100 years ago. The similarities are eerie – it seems the more things change the more they remain the same in other parts of the world.

While the treatment of workers and safety conditions in these faraway lands are appalling to us, we must remember that we were down a similar path not all that long ago. We learned from our errors and mistakes, and today are significantly safer in the workplace as a result. It is a shame that other cultures did not learn from the mistakes we made.

Until the situation improves, it appears that working while Chinese may indeed be hazardous to ones health.

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