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At the Legislative Council in Moving the Motion on the Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation

Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, JP Secretary for Education and Manpower in Moving the Motion on the Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, 24 April 2002

Madam President,

I move that the motion, as set out in the paper circularized to Members, be passed.

2. With the growing use of computers at work, more and more employees are using display screen equipment for prolonged periods of time. Coupled with this growth, there are increasing concerns about related health problems, such as eyestrain and pain in the neck, which can be prevented by having appropriate design of the workstation, working posture and working environment. To protect the safety and health of prolonged users of display screen equipment, the Commissioner for Labour has made the Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation.

3. The Regulation is targeted at employees who, by the nature of their work, e.g. data processing, computer graphic design and telecommunications, are required to use display screen equipment for a prolonged period of time almost every day, i.e. "users" as defined in the Regulation. The definition of "user" is further elaborated in a code of practice to be issued by the Labour Department to mean employees who use display screen equipment almost every day, and continuously for at least four hours during a day or cumulatively for at least six hours during a day.

4. Under the Regulation, "display screen equipment" means any display screen which shows letters, numbers, characters or graphics. However, the Regulation does not apply to certain display screen equipment that normally poses minimal safety and health risks, such as calculators and portable systems that are not in prolonged use.

5. In order that the safety and health of users be adequately protected, we consider it necessary to regulate not only display screen equipment, but also peripheral items like chairs and desks, i.e. the workstation as a whole.

6. The Regulation requires the person responsible for a workplace to perform a risk assessment of a workstation. The responsible person should also take steps to reduce any risks identified. In the Regulation, the main duties are assigned to the person responsible for a workplace because, in some cases, the employer may not exercise any control directly over the workplace. However, the employer is required to provide users employed by him with necessary safety and health training, while users are required to comply with precautionary measures. A person responsible for a workplace or an employer who fails to comply with the Regulation is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000, and a user to a maximum fine of $10,000.

7. Risk assessment of a workstation is based on a checklist, and should be performed by a person who has basic knowledge of the use of display screen equipment and the associated health risks. Safety and health training can be carried out through the showing of videos or distribution of educational materials. Most risk reduction measures would not incur any cost, e.g. repositioning display screens and adjusting the height of chairs. Where furniture has to be replaced to improve individual workstations, e.g. height-adjustable chairs, the expenses involved will be small. Compliance with the Regulation should not therefore impose a heavy financial burden on employers. The social benefits of reducing health problems associated with prolonged use of display screen equipment at work far outweigh the costs involved.

8. We propose that the Regulation should come into operation 12 months after enactment, so as to allow adequate time for employers and employees to prepare themselves for full compliance, as the Regulation covers a wide variety of trades and risk assessment is a new concept. The Labour Department will issue a code of practice and a health guide for employers and employees.

9. In enforcing the Regulation, the Labour Department will normally issue an improvement notice before taking prosecution action against the less serious breaches. The Labour Department will monitor the trend of reported health problems associated with the use of display screen equipment at work, and review the Regulation, in particular the definition of "user", taking into account the findings of relevant medical researches and enforcement experience.

10. The Labour Advisory Board and the LegCo Panel on Manpower have been consulted and indicated their support for the Regulation. I am grateful to the Hon Cheng Kar-foo and Members of the LegCo Sub-committee, which was formed to examine the Regulation. Members have thoroughly debated a range of issues arising from the Regulation which we believe would effectively raise the safety and health standard in Hong Kong.

11. President, I beg to move.

Last revision date: 24 April 2002
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