CHAPTER 4
SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK

The Programme of Safety and Health at Work

(http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/osh/content.htm)

   
4.1

The Occupational Safety and Health Branch is responsible for the promotion and regulation of safety and health at work. The objective of the Programme of Safety and Health at Work is to ensure that risks to people's safety and health at work are properly managed and reduced to the minimum by legislation, education and promotion. More specifically, we achieve the objective by:

  • providing a legislative framework to safeguard safety and health at work;
  • ensuring compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO), the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (FIUO), the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance (BPVO) and their subsidiary regulations by conducting inspections and taking out regulatory actions;
  • investigating accidents and occupational health problems at workplaces;
  • improving the knowledge and understanding of employers, employees and the general public on occupational safety and health by providing them with appropriate information and advice; and
  • organising promotional programmes and training courses to improve safety awareness of the workforce.
   
4.2

The principal legislation for safety and health at work includes the OSHO, the FIUO, and the BPVO.

   
4.3

With few exceptions, the OSHO protects employees' safety and health at work in practically all branches of economic activities. It is basically an enabling legislation that empowers the Commissioner for Labour to make regulations prescribing standards for general working environment as well as specific safety and health aspects at work.

   
4.4

The FIUO regulates safety and health at work in industrial undertakings, which include factories, construction sites, cargo and container handling areas, as well as catering establishments.

   
4.5

The BPVO aims at regulating the standards and operation of equipment such as boilers, pressure vessels, including thermal oil heaters, steam receivers, steam containers, air receivers and pressurised cement tanks mounted on trucks or trailers.

   

Our Work and Achievements in 2005

Work Safety Performance

4.6

Through the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, including employers, employees, contractors, safety practitioners and the Government, Hong Kong's work safety performance has been improving since 1998. The improvement of performance in the construction industry was especially remarkable.

   
4.7

The number of occupational injuries in all workplaces in 2005 stood at 44 267, a slight increase of 0.5 per cent over 44 025 cases in 2004, while the injury rate per thousand employees dropped slightly from 18.1 to 17.8, down by 1.7 per cent.

   
4.8

The work safety performance of the high-risk construction industry continued to improve. However, it still had the highest number of fatalities and accident rate. The number of industrial accidents in the construction industry decreased from 3 833 in 2004 to 3 548 in 2005, down by 7.4 per cent. The accident rate per thousand workers dropped from 60.3 in 2004 to 59.9 in 2005, down by 0.8 per cent.

   
Occupational Diseases
4.9

The number of confirmed occupational disease cases in 2005 stood at 256, similar to the figure of 251 in 2004, and the incidence rate was maintained at 10.3 cases per 100,000 employed workers. Compared to the peak in 1998, there had been a cumulative fall of 73 per cent and 74 per cent in the number and incidence rate of occupational diseases respectively.

   
4.10

For more statistics on occupational safety and health, please visit the following webpage: http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/osh/content10.htm

   
Key Indicators of Work
4.11

Some key indicators of work of this programme area are shown in Figure 4.1.

   
Legislative Improvements
4.12

In February 2005, amendment has been made to the list of occupational diseases specified in Schedule 2 to the OSHO by adding two notifiable occupational diseases, namely Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Avian Influenza A, to better monitor the health of workers who are at risk to occupational diseases. Under the OSHO, medical practitioners are required to notify the Labour Department of cases of the specified occupational diseases that come to their attention.

   
Law Enforcement
4.13

To secure safety and health at work, we inspect workplaces, monitor health hazards, investigate work accidents and occupational diseases, register and inspect boilers and pressure equipment and advise on measures to control hazards or prevent accidents.

   
4.14

A key element in enforcement is to advise on prevention of accidents. We conducted special promotional visits to encourage employers to adopt a self-regulatory approach in managing risks at the workplace. We made regular enforcement inspections to various workplaces to monitor if duty-holders have observed all related statutory requirements stipulated in safety legislation. In addition, we conducted 14 special blitz operations targeting at various high-risk work activities, including working-at-height, scaffolding work, container handing and storage, handling of hazardous chemicals, and use of tower cranes. Some of these blitz operations were conducted not only on normal working days but also at night and during holidays to detect and clamp down on offending contractors. In these 14 operations, a total of 37 678 workplaces were inspected, with 706 prosecutions initiated, 587 improvement notices and 94 suspension notices issued.

   
4.15

We continued to put establishments with poor safety performance under close surveillance. Improvement notices or suspension notices were issued when necessary to secure a speedy rectification of irregularities, or to remove imminent risk to lives and limbs. Many of these companies, especially those in the construction industry, have shown significant improvements in their safety performance. In the light of the rising accident trend in container handling and building renovation and maintenance works, we have intensified our enforcement actions on the workplaces of these high risk trades. We have also enhanced the intelligence reporting system on unsafe renovation and maintenance works with the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies. In 2005, a total of 421 enquiry/complaint/referral cases were received through the system. As a result of inspections to follow up on these cases, 102 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 88 prosecutions taken out.

   
4.16

With a view to preventing the transmission of infectious diseases at work, we conducted focused inspections of high-risk workplaces including hospitals, clinics and elderly homes to ensure adequate provision of personal protective equipment and proper training in the use of the equipment. Inspection to warehouses was stepped up to ensure adequate protection of warehouse workers from inhalation of excessive exhaust gases and other air impurities. We also enhanced the inspection of offices to tie in with our initiative in preventing musculoskeletal disorders in office workers and hazards associated with the prolonged use of display screen equipment. In the year, 427 warnings and 50 improvement notices were issued.

   
4.17

The Commissioner for Labour, as the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority, recognises competent inspection bodies to assess and inspect new pressure equipment during manufacturing. As at the end of 2005, there were 30 appointed examiners and seven recognised inspection bodies. We also conduct examinations, monitor courses for training of competent persons and issue certificates of competency to qualified candidates as competent persons for various types of boilers and steam receivers. In 2005, 477 candidates were examined, of whom 411 were awarded certificates of competency. We also advise the Fire Services Department on approval and preliminary inspections of pressurised cylinders and storage installations for compressed gas.

 
Joint inspection of a boiler by a surveyor and an appointed inspector. Joint inspection of a boiler by a surveyor and an appointed inspector.
   
4.18 As at the end of 2005, a total of 162 345 workplaces, including 15 035 construction sites, were recorded. In the year, 118 907 inspections were conducted under the OSHO and the FIUO, while 4 807 inspections were made under the BPVO. As a result, 34 292 warnings were issued by Occupational Safety Officers while 2 590 warnings were given under the BPVO. Altogether, 1 568 suspension or improvement notices were issued. We also carried out 12 588 and 2 410 investigations on accidents and suspected occupational diseases respectively in the year. Among the suspected occupational diseases, 256 cases were confirmed.
   
Safety Training and Occupational Health Education
4.19

We provide training-related services to help industry reduce occupational injuries. Such services are divided into three broad categories, namely provision of training courses, accreditation of external training providers and registration of safety officers and safety auditors.

   
4.20

In 2005, we conducted 469 training courses on safety legislation for 3 375 participants and 355 tailor-made safety briefing sessions for 10 432 employees. We also accredited seven mandatory basic safety training courses for the construction and container-handling industries. As at year end, more than 768 000 persons have completed the training. We also accredited three confined spaces safety training courses and one loadshifting machinery safety training course.

   
4.21

In 2005, 116 applicants were registered as safety officers while 95 applicants were registered as safety auditors. As at the end of 2005, there were 2 793 persons on the register of safety officers and 801 persons on the register of safety auditors. Furthermore, we started to accept applications for renewal of registration as safety officers with effect from 7 September 2005. A total of 153 applicants were approved for renewal of their registrations as at the end of 2005.

   
4.22

Occupational health education is an important strategy for the control of occupational health hazards and prevention of occupational diseases. Apart from the conventional way of organising health talks at our own premises, we have also developed outreaching services for occupational health education by delivering talks at the venues of individual companies or organisations. In 2005, we delivered a total of 1 701 health talks.

   

Safety and Health Promotion

4.23 To inculcate a safety culture and enhance safety awareness, we organised a series of promotional activities in 2005, some in conjunction with other organisations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Council, trade associations, workers' unions and other government departments.
   
4.24

Under the Customer Service Teams Project, volunteers visited over 15 000 small and medium-sized enterprises to introduce the OSHO and promote the safety management concept to employers and employees.

   
4.25 The well-received Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme and the Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme were organised again in the year. Campaigns were also launched to promote and publicise the safety of working-at-height and scaffolding work in construction sites, the safety in renovation and maintenance of buildings, and the safety at work in the container handling and storage sector.
 
Occupational safety and health seminar cum briefing session of the Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme. Occupational safety and health seminar cum briefing session of the Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme.
 
Roving exhibition to promote safety in the catering industry. Roving exhibition to promote safety in the catering industry.
   
4.26 With the joint efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Council, trade associations and workers' unions, seminars and large-scale promotional activities were organised to promote the work safety of truss-out scaffold which is commonly used in building renovation and maintenance work.
 
Opening ceremony of the truss-out scaffold safety seminar. Opening ceremony of the truss-out scaffold safety seminar.
 
Truss-out scaffold work safety exhibition. Truss-out scaffold work safety exhibition.
   
4.27 A sponsorship scheme was jointly launched with the Occupational Safety and Health Council to provide financial assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises to purchase fall protection equipment and anchor device for use in work involving truss-out scaffold.
   
4.28 The Occupational Safety Charter was jointly launched with the Occupational Safety and Health Council in 1996 to promote the spirit of "shared responsibility" in workplace safety and health, as well as setting out a safety management framework for employers and employees to work together to create a safe and healthy working environment. By the end of 2005, 823 organisations, including public utilities companies, industrial and non-industrial establishments, banks, construction companies, unions and associations, had subscribed to the Occupational Safety Charter.
 
PCCW subscribes to the Occupational Safety Charter. PCCW subscribes to the Occupational Safety Charter.
   
4.29 As work-related musculoskeletal disorders had become an increasingly important occupational health problem in recent years, we strengthened our publicity efforts to promote the prevention of these diseases in office workers. This was achieved through different means including announcements in the public interest on the radio and television, mobile advertising media, newspaper articles, occupational health talks, exhibitions, posters and booklets.
   
4.30 In 2005, 14 new occupational safety and health publications were published, including a code of practice for the safe use of excavators, guidance notes on chemical safety in the printing industry, and safety and health at work for use and maintenance of rechargeable battery; other safety guides on safety at work in cleaning buildings, safety hints on demolition of unauthorised building works, and work-related disease series - lower limb varicose vein; guide to legislation on the provisions for safe places of work under Part VA of the Construction Sites (Safety) Regulations, occupational safety and health statistics bulletin issue No.5 (July 2005), and a booklet on work stress.
 
Publications on occupational safety and health.
 
Publications on occupational safety and health. Publications on occupational safety and health.
   
4.31 The Occupational Safety and Health Centre provides one-stop information and advisory services to workers and employers. In 2005, we handled 17 534 enquiries, advising on various occupational safety and health matters.
   
Medical and Clinical Services
4.32 Our medical and nursing staff at the Occupational Health Clinic provides clinical consultations, medical treatment as well as occupational health education and counselling services for workers suffering from work-related diseases. The workplaces of the patients are inspected if necessary to identify and evaluate occupational health hazards in the work environment. We also assess the medical fitness for work of radiation workers, aviation personnel and government employees exposed to specific occupational health hazards.
   
4.33 In 2005, 9 395 clinical consultations were rendered, and 2 570 medical examinations and assessments conducted. Five patient support groups were organised to promote patients' treatment compliance and sustainability in good work practices through health talks, experience sharing and peer support.
 
Occupational health counselling. Occupational health counselling.
 
Occupational health talk. Occupational health talk.