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Industry safety

LEGCO QUESTION No. 7(WRITTEN REPLY)


Date of Meeting: 20 June 2001



Asked by : Hon Ambrose LAU

Replied by : SEM

Question :

On 29 May this year, a serious industrial accident occurred in a construction site for a new bus depot of the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited in Cheung Sha Wan, resulting in one death and nine injuries. It was reported that officers of the Labour Department had visited the site in April but had not found any violations of safety regulations. Regarding industrial safety, will the Government inform this Council:

  1. of the frequency and details of construction site inspections conducted by officers of the Labour Department;

  2. of the specific measures in place to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents; and

  3. whether it will consider providing additional resources for launching promotional and educational campaigns targeted at contractors, sub-contractors and workers respectively, in order to enhance their awareness of industrial safety; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Reply:

Madam President,

a. At present, there are 140 Occupational Safety Officers in Labour Department (about 50% of the total strength) who are responsible for construction site inspections. In conducting inspections, Labour Department would deploy its manpower as appropriate depending on the potential hazard and safety performance of the construction sites. On average, active construction sites are inspected once every two months. For those construction sites with unsatisfactory safety performance, serious offences committed or accidents occurred, Labour Department will increase the frequency of inspections up to once every two weeks.

Where there is any offence discovered in an inspection, Occupational Safety Officers will institute prosecutions and depending on the severity of the offences, take the following action -
  1. issue improvement notices to require the proprietor or contractor to refrain from continuing or repeating the contravention and to take remedial measures;
  2. where the offence concerned may cause imminent risks of death or serious bodily injuries, issue suspension notices to require the proprietor or contractor to suspend the works immediately and take measures to eliminate the risks.
  3. if the proprietor or contractor has not taken any measure to improve the workplace within the specified time in accordance with the improvement notice or suspension notice, Labour Department will institute further prosecutions.
Besides, Labour Department will urge the contractors to promptly eliminate the risks jointly with other relevant departments (e.g. Housing Department and Works Bureau) if the construction site concerned involves public works. If private development is involved, Labour Department will notify Buildings Department for action.

Details of inspections conducted on construction sites in 2000 are as follows -

  Number
Inspection 48,151
Issue of Improvement Notice 1,385
Issue of Suspension Notice 138
Prosecution 1,939
b. Generally speaking the recurrence of similar accidents may be prevented by improving occupational safety and building safety -
  1. Occupational Safety

    Section 6A of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (the general duties provision) provides that every proprietor of an industrial undertaking (including contractor of construction site) has the duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of all their employees. The relevant measures include the provision of necessary safety training, information, instruction and supervision. Any person who fails to comply with the requirement is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $500,000 and 6 months' imprisonment.

    To provide contractors with guidelines on good practices of the relevant trades so as to prevent accidents on construction sites relating to the collapse of falsework, Labour Department published in 1998 a set of guidance notes entitled "Safety at Work (Falsework - Prevention of Collapse)". The Guidance Notes provide detailed guidelines on the safety measures for the design, erection, use and demolition of falsework. Labour Department will shortly publish the "Code of Practice for Metal Scaffolding Safety" to provide detailed practical guidelines on falsework safety.

    During construction site inspections, Occupational Safety Officers will step up their efforts in urging contractors and professional engineers to carry out construction works and implement necessary safety measures in accordance with the relevant guidelines. As before, Labour Department will work closely with other relevant departments (including Buildings Department) and will institute prosecutions against the offenders where necessary.

  2. Building Safety

    The construction site concerned used precast columns, beams and floor slabs. To tighten up site safety supervision of similar works, Buildings Department has introduced interim measures for works which use this advanced construction method. These measures include the following:

    1. requiring the responsible Registered Structural Engineer (RSE) to submit to Buildings Department details of the works (including the design, and installation procedures for the temporary support works), prior to its commencement, for monitoring and auditing;
    2. requiring the RSE to be more focused on site safety supervision for the relevant works on similar construction sites; and
    3. conducting more frequent audits on the relevant works on similar construction sites.

    Upon completion of the investigation of the accident concerned, Buildings Department will consider other necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents.

    In fact, work safety on construction sites is closely related to every process of the works, ranging from design, planning to construction and involves different types of employees (including professionals, skilled workers, semi-skilled workers, and unskilled workers). To ensure work safety, contractors, employees and all other relevant parties should make concerted efforts, focus on safety and take early precautions, thereby preventing the occurrence of accidents.
c. In parallel with taking enforcement actions, Labour Department also places great importance to raising the safety awareness among contractors, subcontractors and construction workers through publicity and educational activities.

On the publicity front, Labour Department, in conjunction with other government departments, the Occupational Safety and Health Council, the Construction Industry Training Authority, and relevant trade associations and unions, organises large-scale publicity campaigns from time to time to raise the safety awareness in the construction industry so as to enable them to build up a safe and healthy working environment through self-regulation. In addition, Labour Department would, in collaboration with relevant trade unions of the industry, hold various promotional activities such as seminars, quizzes, promotional visits, exhibitions and fun fair days, to carry the messages related to occupational safety and health across to construction workers and their families who participated in the activities. Over the past three years, Labour Department has taken part in organizing more than 50 promotional programmes, including the large-scale publicity campaigns listed in Annex I.

To facilitate wider dissemination of messages on occupational safety and health in the industry, Labour Department has produced a series of TV APIs (see Annex II) for broadcasting on television to promote safety and health measures on construction sites.

In future, Labour Department will continue to promote occupational safety and health in the industry through publicity and promotional programmes, including the following activities planned for 2001 -
  1. publicizing the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Loadshifting Machinery) Regulation, which will be implemented shortly;
  2. continuing to hold roving exhibitions and distribute relevant guidelines and pamphlets at construction sites, in line with the full implementation of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation in the near future; and
  3. taking part in organizing seminars, conferences, roving exhibitions and other publicity activities on occupational safety, such as the "2001 Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme".
On education and training, the Occupational Safety and Health Training Centre of Labour Department regularly provides construction workers with free safety training courses. In addition, legislation has been enacted to provide for mandatory safety training for construction workers in order to raise their awareness of occupational safety, and thereby reduce accident rates. The legislation has come into effect since 1 May 2001. As at end-March 2001, over 350,000 construction workers have been awarded certificates on the completion of basic safety training.
Annex I
Major publicity programmes launched over the past three years to promote occupational safety and health in the construction industry

  1. Promotional Programme on the Wider Use of Safety Shoes (1998)
  2. Promotional and Educational Programme on Hearing Conservation (1998)
  3. Exhibition on Occupational Safety and Health Equipment (1998)
  4. The Construction Safety Banner Campaign (1999)
  5. The Personal Protecting Equipment Promotion Campaign (1999)
  6. The Safety Award Scheme on Good Housekeeping for the Construction Industry (1999)
  7. Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme (2000)
  8. The ongoing Occupational Safety Charter Programme launched to call for a sense of "shared responsibility" among employers and employees and promote safety management through self-regulation
  9. Ongoing roving exhibitions at construction sites and distribution of relevant guidelines and booklets to promote the concept of "safety management" among contractors, sub-contractors and construction workers in support of the imminent implementation of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation
Annex 2
TV APIs for promoting safety and health
in the construction industry over the past three years

  1. "Green Card" training (1998)
  2. Manual handling operations (1998)
  3. Hearing conservation (1998)
  4. Safety shoes (1998)
  5. Safety precautions for working at height (1999)
  6. Personal protective equipment (1999)
  7. Good housekeeping for the construction industry (2000)
  8. Safety precautions for fitting-out works (2001)
  9. Mandatory safety training (2001)
Last revision date: 20 June 2001
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