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Travel: What it’s like to visit China – Workplace and Government Safety Standards

Just writing that title made me laugh because I remember seeing how many workplace violations there would be if they were in North America under rules.


So no big deal, just a bunch of people cleaning skycrapers…. right?




These are NOT small skyscrapers either.


I saw this and had to do a double-take.


Need an air conditioner? Can’t carry it up the stairs or want an easier way?

Just lift it with some ropes, by yourself, without ANY concern for passerbys crossing around who could be killed by a falling air conditioner.

Just another day in China.



These looked surprisingly sturdy, except for the fact that they don’t use super strong twist zip ties as they do in Hong Kong to set up construction sites.

These bamboo things go across huge buildings to fix and repair them, but in China, they’re held together by… what is that.. ROPE?


Needless to say, safety helmets, harnesses… not really something that’s on the top of their list.

But if you are a foreign company building in China, you may have different ideas on what constitutes “workplace safety”:



Their idea of blocking off an area, is a bunch of flags on a rope.

What’s worse, is that if you look closely at the welder, he just has a CLOTH OVER HIS FACE.

Not even a proper welding mask.

His glasses? Sunglasses. Probably not even polarized, they looked like normal safety glasses.

No protective gear… that’s how they roll there.



This really made my heart skip.

Can you imagine biking in this kind of traffic, with these lack of safety regulations and rules, going right beside buses with your KID(S) balancing on the back?


Not a helmet in sight.






  • 101 Centavos

    Nice pictures.

    This could be an advert for the *good side* of personal injury attorneys. Nothing like the threat of litigation to instill a culture of safety. πŸ™‚

    Seriously, speaking as someone who’s traveled extensively in SE Asia to industrial sites, the adoption of “Western-type” health, safety and environmental (HSE) norms is something that comes slowly. Even in tigerish industrially developed countries Japan and Korea.

    Having said that, there are plenty of small industry in North America that fail miserably on HSE compliance.

  • Tracy

    Your posts about China are kind of offensive. As a Chinese-Canadian reader of your blog, some of your comments are so biased against China that I have trouble respecting your opinion. I get it, you don’t like China, you don’t like buying things from China, it’s dirty, polluted, unsafe, and you would never go back. That’s cool, I don’t particularly care for certain parts of the world either.

    However, you’re gonna pick on China for its lack of safety regulations? Really? If you visit pretty much any country in South-East Asia you see the same problems. It comes from being a developing country, where many of its citizens still live below the poverty line. There are plenty of construction companies that abide by top-tier safety rules, such as the conglomerates, but if we’re talking about mom-and-pop tradespeople, there are plenty here in Canada that don’t use proper equipment either.

    My offense to this post, is that in tandem with your previous China posts, I’m sensing a LOT of hate towards China as a country, rather than towards developing countries who all share the same struggles that China does. I really wish you would’ve said at least ONE THING that you found beautiful or that you liked about your travels, but you didn’t, and you focused solely on the negative things. Your comment below about Chinese drivers running over children was SO OFFSIDE it’s borderline ignorant. There are crazy people everywhere, look at the crazies in America who shoot up movie theatres and elementary schools? They don’t represent USA as a whole, they are outliers in the population with mental health issues. A few crazy drivers in China do not represent the average Chinese people and I really question your judgment if you think it does.

    -Long time blog reader.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I haven’t gotten to other countries yet, having not visited Southeast Asia extensively. This is coming from a perspective of someone who has lived in Western countries her whole life.

      I haven’t gotten to the good parts of China because I haven’t put it all into one post. I don’t hate the country entirely, there are good aspects to it particularly their respect towards elders which I find lacking in Western culture, and their total devotion to their kids as well as studying / making a better life for themselves.

      If you feel offended it’s because you’re Chinese-Canadian and you feel like I am attacking your culture or you personally but I am not. I’m trying my best to show things in an objective manner based on what I experienced while I was there.

      If it makes you feel better, I don’t like my own culture either, no one culture for me is very good, and I am not patriotic / loyal to any.

      Let me show you the article where it says that one driver deliberately backed up to kill a child to avoid compensation and you tell me whether or not this is something you’d see or experience in North America:

  • GirlinaTrenchcoat

    Gaaah I saw #1 and my knees went weak. I hate heights.

    And the no helmet thing is horrible. Our tour bus actually hit a man on a bike in Beijing and the bus driver didn’t even get out to check if the guy was ok, it was a fellow passenger who told the driver to stop and see if the man was alright. Lucky he was, but still… what COULD have happened…

    Sadly I see a lot of this in my home country as well so it doesn’t surprise me. πŸ™

    • save. spend. splurge.

      In China I hear they run over people they hit just to be sure they die and don’t need to pay compensation. Plenty of stories about cars backing up and “finishing off” the person, even little children.

      • Tracy

        @save. spend. splurge.: This has happened in China but Chinese people are DISGUSTED by it.
        There are uneducated/mentally disturbed people everywhere in the world, but they do not represent the majority of that country’s people. Chinese people hate people like this just as much as North Americans do, same with all the other propaganda stories you have heard/are spreading about China.

        “We” the Chinese people do not condone killing people, we don’t “finish off” human lives in any form, even little children.

        • save. spend. splurge.

          I agree with what you’re saying, I am not saying all Chinese people are like this, but the fact of the matter is that there ARE people who do this in China whereas you don’t see such behaviour in other countries, no matter what it might entail afterwards (paying compensation).

          I have never heard of anyone here in North America running someone over and backing up to finish the job to avoid compensation.

          Sure we do horrible things here, murder and so on but never to the point where you could hurt a human being, specifically a child and then have the state of mind to back up over them to kill them.

          It’s beyond horrific that a culture could produce such panic in someone that they’d do that.

          For all the other readers, here’s the link:

  • CorianneM

    Well, except for the helmets on bikes (you get used to it, and they don’t drive particularly fast + once you know the ‘unofficial’ rules, it’s relatively safe – I felt safer than in the Netherlands on my bike, that’s for sure), I say: omg!

    And feeling quite nostalgic. When I lived in Beijing, I saw once a guy fixing something on the outer wall of my dorm. He was on the 7th/8th floor or sth, WITHOUT ANY ropes or safety gear holding him.

    Also once saw a documentary on skyscrapers in Shanghai. Some of these builders weren’t wearing any gear like ropes and they were working several tens of stories high! :O

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I can’t agree with what you’re saying. As a pedestrian walking, I was almost run over by a car at least 10 times while I was there, and I obey traffic lights.

      Same with bikes on the sidewalks and so on. It wasn’t until I got to Hong Kong that my brain relaxed and I could finally walk normally, and obey the lights because no car would be trying to sneak past me and run me over.

      • CorianneM

        @save. spend. splurge.: Well, actually, the best way to cross the street is to DISobey the traffic lights πŸ˜‰ No, seriously. I was freaked out the first two weeks I was there, and I lived in a more chaotic (well, more “normal” Chinese) neighbourhood with messed up or non-existing traffic lights or traffic lights obscured by foliage (yes, you could NOT see the light – only after about two months when it was winter I discovered the light because the leaves had fallen from the tree – and this was at an extremely busy crossroads right around the corner from my home on the way to the metro station) than the neighbourhoods and streets around most of the sites interesting to travellers/tourists (which are usually much much better organised and lighted), but I quickly learned to not obey the traffic lights and to cross when all the other Chinese people are crossing the street (safety in numbers).

        And I can honestly say that you develop some kind of sensibility to this traffic chaos after a few months. After a year, I was a pro at running across the street with moving traffic to catch a taxi (much to my mom’s horror, I might add). But yeah, if you’re only there for a few weeks, it can be pretty terrifying at times.

        • save. spend. splurge.

          You are scaring me!! “safety in numbers”…

          No no.. I was only there for 2 weeks and I came away from it mentally exhausted, trying to stay safe πŸ˜›

  • NZ Muse

    LOL Yep these were a shocker all through Asia. As someone used to working on sites T kept freaking out about the total lack of safety everywhere.

    And the same for things like tours – we’re pretty stringent here in NZ on adventure type stuff, whereas on the sea tours we did in Thailand and Vietnam it was a bit of a free for all.

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