Safety and Health at Work
The Programme of Safety and Health at Work
(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 2006

   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 2006 stood at 46 937, representing a 26.1 per cent drop from 63 526 in 1998, while the injury rate per thousand employees decreased to 18.4 as well, down by 31.2 per cent when compared to 26.7 in 1998. The number of industrial accidents and the accident rate per thousand workers also went down to 17 286 and 31.5 respectively, representing 59.8 and 51.4 per cent drop when compared to 43 034 and 64.7 in 1998.

   4.8    The number of industrial accidents in the construction industry decreased from 19 588 in 1998 to 3 400 in 2006, a hefty drop of 82.6 per cent, while the accident rate per thousand workers also decreased from 247.9 to 64.3, down by 74.1 per cent.

   4.9    We attach great importance to the occupational safety and health performance of major local construction work projects. In June, we arranged members of the Committee of Occupational Safety and Health of the Labour Advisory Board to visit the Ngong Ping 360 Project.

Study visit to the Ngong Ping 360 Project by members of the Labour Advisory Board Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.
Study visit to the Ngong Ping 360 Project by members of the Labour Advisory Board Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

   Occupational Diseases
4.10    The number of confirmed occupational disease cases in 2006 was 264, representing a slight rise of 3 per cent from 256 cases in 2005. The incidence rate in 2006 was 10.5 cases per 100,000 employed workers, which was 2 per cent higher than the figure of 10.3 cases per 100,000 employed workers in 2005. Compared to the peak in 1998, there had been a cumulative fall of 72 per cent and 74 per cent in the number and incidence rate of occupational diseases respectively.

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

   Key Indicators of Work
4.12    Some key indicators of work of this programme area are shown in Figure 4.1.

   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 had observed all related statutory requirements stipulated in safety legislation. In addition, we conducted 17 special blitz operations targeting at various high-risk work activities, including working-at-height, scaffolding work, underground sewage pipe work, container handling 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 17 operations, a total of 32 219 workplaces were inspected, with 587 prosecutions initiated, 490 improvement notices and 101 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 risks 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 2006, a total of 425 enquiry/complaint/referral cases were received through the system and other channels. As a result of inspections to follow up on these cases, 98 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 73 prosecutions taken out.

   4.16    We conducted focused inspections to office workplaces to make sure that both employers and employees abided by the Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation. Moreover, we stepped up inspections of catering establishments to ensure that appropriate measures were taken to prevent workers from contracting work-related musculoskeletal disorders. To see that contractors observed with the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Confined Spaces) Regulation in conducting work in confined spaces, we enhanced inspections to such workplaces including drainage maintenance worksites. Altogether, 226 warnings, 36 improvement notices and seven suspension notices were issued and 12 prosecutions were taken out.

   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 2006, there were 31 appointed examiners and seven recognised inspection bodies. Apart from that, we 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 2006, 534 candidates were examined, of whom 467 were awarded certificates of competency. At the same time, we advise the Fire Services Department on approval and preliminary inspections of pressurised cylinders and storage installations for compressed gas.

   4.18    As at the end of 2006, a total of 168 546 workplaces, including 15 531 construction sites, were recorded. In the year, 116 500 inspections were conducted under the OSHO and the FIUO, while 5 064 inspections were made under the BPVO. As a result, 32 393 warnings were issued by Occupational Safety Officers while 3 208 warnings were given under the BPVO. Altogether, 1 528 suspension or improvement notices were issued. We also carried out 11 461 and 2 006 investigations on accidents and suspected occupational diseases respectively in the year. Among the suspected occupational diseases, 264 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 2006, we conducted 465 legislation-related safety and health training courses for 3 473 participants and 346 tailor-made talks for 9 086 employees. We also recognised 14 mandatory basic safety training courses for the construction and container-handling industries. As at year end, more than 848 000 persons have completed the training. We also recognised 10 confined spaces safety training courses and 25 loadshifting machinery safety training courses.

   4.21    In 2006, 108 applicants were registered as safety officers while 54 applicants were registered as safety auditors. As at the end of 2006, there were 2 901 persons on the register of safety officers and 866 persons on the register of safety auditors. Furthermore, we started to accept applications for renewal or revalidation of registration as safety officers with effect from 7 September 2005. A total of 1 581 applicants were approved for renewal of their registrations as at the end of 2006.

   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 offices, we have also developed outreaching services for occupational health education by delivering talks at individual companies or organisations. In 2006, we delivered a total of 1 629 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 2006, 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 13 346 catering establishments and business related to renovation and maintenance works to promote safety at work to employers and employees.

Customer Service Teams Project 2006 - Certificate Presentation Ceremony.
Customer Service Teams Project 2006 - Certificate Presentation Ceremony.

   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.

Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme 2005/2006 Presentation Ceremony.
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme 2005/2006 Presentation Ceremony.

   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.

   4.27    We continued to launch jointly with the Occupational Safety and Health Council the sponsorship scheme to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with financial assistance to purchase fall protection equipment and anchor device for use in work involving truss-out scaffold.

   4.28    The Occupational Safety Charter, which has been jointly launched with the Occupational Safety and Health Council since 1996 to promote the spirit of "shared responsibility" in workplace safety and health, sets out a safety management framework for employers and employees to work together with a view to creating a safe and healthy working environment. By the end of 2006, 915 organisations, including public utilities companies, industrial and non-industrial establishments, banks, construction companies, unions, associations and community organisations, have subscribed to the Occupational Safety Charter.

Subscription of the Occupational Safety Charter by the Tsuen Wan Safe and Healthy Community.
Subscription of the Occupational Safety Charter by the Tsuen Wan Safe and Healthy Community.

   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 and workers in the catering industry. This was achieved through different means including announcements of public interests on the radio and television, video shows on mobile advertising media, newspaper articles, occupational health talks, exhibitions, posters and booklets.

   4.30    In 2006, 33 new occupational safety and health publications were published, including guidance notes for safe use of fork-lift trucks and safe use of flammable liquids, casebooks of occupational fatalities related to renovation and maintenance works and in the container handling and storage sector, occupational safety and health statistics bulletin issue No. 6 (July 2006), safety guides for work in manholes/air monitoring in the workplace/occupational health for butchers, hints on prevention of musculoskeletal disorders for the catering industry, work-related disease series - shoulder tendonitis and osteoarthritis of knee, and other booklets on operation of boilers and air receivers.

Latest publications on occupational safety and health.
Latest publications on occupational safety and health.

   4.31    In 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch handled 18 197 enquiries, advising on various safety and health matters. The Occupational Safety and Health Centre provides information and advisory services to workers and employers.

   Clinical Occupational Health Services
4.32    With the heightened awareness of the general public on occupational health, the demand for services of the Kwun Tong Occupational Health Clinic had been increasing. In June 2006, the Labour Department set up the new Fanling Occupational Health Clinic to strengthen its clinical service in the New Territories. 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.

A nurse providing occupational health counselling to a patient at the Fanling Occupational Health Clinic.
A nurse providing occupational health counselling to a patient at the Fanling Occupational Health Clinic.

   4.33    In 2006, 11 420 clinical consultations were rendered, and 2 761 medical examinations and assessments conducted. Six patient support groups were organised to promote patients' treatment compliance and sustainability in good work practices through health talks, experience sharing and peer support.