I move that the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Gas Welding and Flame Cutting) Regulation made by the Commissioner for Labour be passed.
2. The proposed Regulation seeks to require operators of gas welding and flame cutting equipment to undergo safety training and to obtain a certificate. We consider it necessary to introduce mandatory safety training for these workers because gas welding and flame cutting work is commonly used in various trades and is prone to cause serious accidents if not handled properly. The hazard may cause significant loss of life and property. In February 2000, a tragic industrial accident occurred in Yuen Long and claimed the lives of three workers. With safety training, it is expected that operators of gas welding and flame cutting equipment would be able to observe the desired safety standards, thereby improving safety at their workplace.
3. Under the proposed Regulation, the proprietor of an industrial undertaking concerned will be required to provide safety training to an operator who is instructed to perform gas welding and flame cutting work. He will also be required to ensure that such work is only performed by a person who has attained the age of 18 and holds a valid certificate; or a person who is undergoing training under the supervision of a holder of a valid certificate. Workers will be required by the proposed Regulation to attend the safety training provided by the proprietor.
4. The safety training required under the proposed Regulation will need to be recognised by the Commissioner for Labour. Through administrative means, the Commissioner will ensure that certificates issued for the purpose of the proposed Regulation would be valid for five years. The Construction Industry Training Authority, the Occupational Safety and Health Council and the Vocational Training Council have indicated that they have the capacity and intention to run the safety training as stipulated by the proposed Regulation. According to the estimate of the Labour Department, at present about 40 000 workers would be required to undergo safety training. To allow adequate time for the prescribed training, we shall provide a grace period of 24 months before the proposed Regulation comes into full effect.
5. We have taken note of a request from the industry to include electric arc welding work under the proposed Regulation. Following a thorough review, we notice that past accidents relating to electric arc welding work were mainly caused by electrocution. The nature and degree of seriousness of such accidents are very different from those relating to gas welding and flame cutting work. Furthermore, as the safe operation of electric equipment is already provided for in the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Electricity) Regulations, we do not consider it necessary to single out electric arc welding for inclusion in the proposed Regulation.
6. Although the required safety training would incur additional training cost for the proprietors concerned, there will be clear benefits from enhanced training for the operators. When consulted, the Labour Advisory Board and the LegCo Panel on Manpower both supported the proposal and I now recommend the proposed Regulation to Honourable Members.
7. Madam President, I beg to move.