“I spent the best years of my life studying in South China University of Technology, and SCUT is my spiritual homeland.” WU Zongzhi, a studious middle-aged man with a strong accent of Yangtze-Huaihe dialect, is a postgraduate of SCUT in 1986 and now the head of China Academy of Safety Science and Technology.
WU had dreamt to be an “angel in white” to save others’ lives in hospital when he was young, but later he took up the work of accident prevention and life protection, which became the career of his life, realizing his dream of saving lives in a different way.
SCUT, the power source of progress
In 1979, WU Zongzhi came to Guangzhou from Anhui province and started his seven years’ study in SCUT. He majored in foundry as an undergraduate, then heat treatment as a graduate with the guidance of Prof. YU Zhongkui. Influenced by his roommates, WU changed his major to hydraulic system control when he prepared for his doctor’s degree. So he lived a fulfilling life as he studied three major fields in seven years.
Every morning WU got up at six, then jogged around the west lake, read English and had breakfast. In the afternoon he would do some dumb-bell exercises. This kind of routine lasted for seven years. But WU was not a dull student, who started to learn German at the Goethe-Institute in his sophomore year and used what he learnt to enlarge his horizon.
WU smiled when he recalled his college life, “I was like a robot at that time, fully concentrated on study.” LIU Zhengyi, his teacher of electronic micro-analysis still had a fresh memory of WU and said he was a hard-working student with good grades. In the experimental classes, WU could often be seen in the dark room, developing the films patiently.
“The seven years in SCUT has an irreplaceable effect on me in terms of learning, thinking and physical conditions, which contributes greatly to my success today.” WU Zongzhi said he was impressed by Prof. YU Zhongkui’s foresight to the topic of solar energy, Mr. LIU Zhengyi’s teaching on metallographic examination and also by the experienced master in the dark room.
Developing films called for patience. The master working in the dark room often asked them to calm down and repeat the same work, which reminded WU Zongzhi of the “100,000 times principle” – if you want to be an expert in certain field, you need to do the simple work for at least 100,000 times. It also made him realize that it was not easy to accomplish one thing in one’s short life, and ordinary people could finally be great because they persist in one thing and practice repeatedly to make it better.
All this made WU Zongzhi proud of being a student of SCUT. Later when he met some difficulties, he always asked himself, “My university can very well match others, why can’t I overcome these problems?” SCUT had become the power source of WU’s progress.
WU also cared about the development of his alma mater. When he got some free time after work, he went back to SCUT to help solve the students’ problems. Based on his experience, he shared with them how to study, work and research efficiently, how to solve problems, gain experience from it and finally be successful. Besides, he was an adjunct professor of SCUT and contributed to the development of safety specialty.
Pioneer in research of safety production in China
After earning his doctor’s degree in 1989, WU Zongzhi went to the previous ministry of labor and worked in the institute of labor protection, doing research on major accidents prevention, major hazard sources identification and safety management.
In WU Zongzhi’s eyes, hazard sources were the “enemies”. Accidents prevention was like fighting in a war. First you needed to know where the enemies – hazard sources before identification, classified management, inspection and elimination as well as the preparation of emergency rescue plan.
In the past 20 years, WU Zongzhi had devoted himself to the research of safety production. Under his leadership, his team initiated the theory and technical methods of major hazard sources identification and control, which provided new theory and legal basis for China’s major industrial accidents prevention. They were also major breakthroughs in accidents risk assessment, safety planning, emergency rescue etc. Their work filled many blanks, promoted the legislation of safety production laws and contributed to the society.
BAI Chunli, president of Chinese Academy of Science spoke highly of their work: “In response to the facts that major accidents happened frequently in many fields in China, our scientists put forward a suitable prevention and control system of major industrial accidents, as well as a series of technical methods for major hazard sources identification, assessment, classified management and control, and policies for plant location and safety planning of urban land use; and for establishment of emergency rescue system. Also a series of core techniques in inspection and control of major hazard sources were developed. The application of these techniques will effectively prevent accidents and play a significant role in ensuring a safe society.”
“Risks always exist and there is only relative safety, but accidents and damages can be prevented.” In WU’s opinion, there is no end in pursuing safety. We had experienced many major accidents in economic development, which resulted in great damage to lives and property as well as negative influence to the society. To change the situation and set up a long-term mechanism of safe production, we must rely on technology and further cooperation and research in this field, meanwhile we should put prevention first and enhance source control and comprehensive regulation.
Work, work and work
WU Zongzhi experienced a number of investigation and analysis of major accidents, such as “9.3” extraordinary serious accident of TSP (Three Gorges Projects), Harbin 3.14 extraordinary serious accident and so forth, each of which was impressive to WU Zongzhi. Those lost lives, broken devices and collapsed buildings aroused his feelings of sorrow and guilt as well as rational thinking: “Our prevention work has not been in place. Faced with those accidents and the expectation of the society, we have no other choice but to work harder.”
The strong sense of mission spurs WU to work harder: “Our job is not nine-to-five work hours. The work continues as long as you are not tired.”
WU was worried about the lack of talents of safety technology, the shortage was not 1 or 2, but thousands or even ten thousands. He once straightly talked about this issue: “Accidents will be unavoidable if it is a group of managers with no knowledge of safety production that lead a group of workers without safety awareness.” To train more talents highly needed in safety specialty, he concurrently held the post of doctoral tutor of University of Science and Technology Beijing and China University of Mining and Technology and leader of experts group of “A Plan for Educating and Training Outstanding Engineers” in the field of safe production.
Besides academic research and legal construction, WU was also considering promoting the application of scientific achievements through the markets. When showing the latest escape device for high-rise buildings, he said, “As a science researcher, I seldom talk about achievements. But as chairman of the board, I must try my best to promote the advanced technology and products.”
WU Zongzhi was busy with research, teaching and management, but he seemed always full of energy. He said, “The exercise in university lays a good physical foundation for me. I will try my best to make contribution to the innovation and development of safety science and technology, living up to my teachers’ training and expectation.”
Edited by HU Nanping and WEN Qiang
From SCUT News Network