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Industry safety during thunderstorms

LEGCO QUESTION No. 19(WRITTEN REPLY)


Date of Meeting: 20 June 2001



Asked by : Hon LI Fung-ying

Replied by : SEM

Question :

On the 5th of this month, two industrial accidents occurred successively in which four workers were suspected to have been struck by lightning, resulting in one death and three injuries. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

  1. the deceased's cause of death;

  2. the means it has adopted to remind employers and employees of industrial safety issues they should pay attention to during thunderstorms, particularly the safety measures when it is necessary to work outdoors; and

  3. the measures the relevant government departments will adopt to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents?


Reply:

Madam President,

a. The two accidents of 5th of this month occurred at A Kung Kok Villiage and the Hong Kong International Airport respectively. An engineer died in the accident occurred at A Kung Kok Villiage. The Administration is investigating the accident. It is preliminarily believed to be related to electric shocks, but the actual cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
b. In every rainy season, Labour Department publicises, through various publicity channels, among employers and employees the issues to which they should pay attention for work in inclement weather. These channels include -

  1. Broadcasting TV API to remind employers and employees to draw up, as early as possible, arrangements for work in inclement weather;
  2. Publishing the "Code of Practice in Times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" to encourage employers and employees to work out, in prior, work arrangements and contingency measures when rainstorm warning is in force, and to remind them of their liabilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance. Under the Ordinance, employers have the duty to ensure the safety and health of all their employees at work by providing them with a safe workplace as well safe plants and systems of work (e.g. providing them with personal protective equipment, etc). Where it is necessary for employees to work in inclement weather, employers shall ensure that the relevant risks are properly controlled and reduced to the lowest extent as is reasonably practicable. Employees, on the other hand, shall cooperate with their employers and comply with the safety rules and work procedures. Copies of the Code of Practice are available at Labour Department's offices. The text has also been uploaded to the homepage of Labour Department for online browsing.
  3. Arousing employers' and employees' awareness of the issues concerned through the "Labour Focus". (The "Labour Focus" is a bimonthly promotional publication published by Labour Department for regular distribution to organisations with 5 employees or more.)
In routine inspections and safety conferences, Occupational Safety Officers of Labour Department also remind employers and contractors of the need to conduct risk assessments for various work processes and working conditions, and to put in place a system for safety at work, including arrangements for work in inclement weather, such as in the events of typhoon or thunderstorm. Occupational Safety Officers also remind employers and contractors that where it is unavoidable for employees to work outdoor in inclement weather, they shall ensure that those employees fully understand the relevant system for safety at work and that proper supervision for such outdoor work is in place.

In addition, various works departments issues circulars before every rainy season to contractors and their employees to remind them of the necessary safety measures to be taken (including how to avoid being struck by lightning) when outdoor work in inclement weather is required. Contractors are also required to organise site seminars on relevant safety measures. Safety officers from various departments also remind contractors to take appropriate safety measures at the meetings of the safety committee for the works contracts.

The Airport Authority issues the "Emergency Procedures Manual" which sets out in detail the contingency measures to be adopted by various units working at the apron area during thunderstorms. For example, staff should be notified to stay indoors or take shelter inside a vehicle and to keep away from aircraft or lampposts as far as possible. When a thunderstorm warning issued by the Hong Kong Observatory is in force, the Airport Authority would immediately notify all relevant units so that they may take appropriate safety measures in accordance with the Manual and the internal procedures of their respective companies.
c. Labour Department will continue to enhance employers' and employes' safety awareness for work in inclement weather through publicity and education. During their inspections of workplaces, Occupational Safety Officers will step up their efforts in encouraging employers and contractors to set up, as early as possible, a system and draw up the respective code for safety at work and to urge their employees to comply. Occupational Safety Officers will also remind employers and contractors that where it is unavoidable for their employees to work in inclement weather, they shall ensure that the relevant work is only performed under strict supervision and in accordance with the stipulated code for safety at work. Labour Department will take vigorous enforcement actions, including prosecution, against any person in breach of the safety legislation.

All works departments will continue to discuss at the safety committee for the works contracts the safety measures to be taken for outdoor work in inclement weather and monitor how the contractors and their employees implement the relevant measures in practice. Upon completion of the investigation regarding the fatal accident at A Kung Kok Villiage, Works Bureau will inform all works department of the cause of accident and the measures which require enhancement so as to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

The Airport Authority will, through various channels (such as Ramp Operations and Safety Committee, the "Airport Safety Bulletin" etc) remind the companies concerned of the need to put in place safety measures to be taken during thunderstorms. In addition, it will urge them to review their internal procedures from time to time in order to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
Last revision date: 20 June 2001
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