Chapter 4 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, enforcement, 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.
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4.2 The principal legislation for safety and health at work includes the OSHO, the FIUO, and the BPVO.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Our Work and Achievements in 2007
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 in the construction industry was especially remarkable.
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4.7 The number of occupational injuries in all workplaces in 2007 stood at 43 979, representing a 30.8 per cent drop from 63 526 in 1998, while the injury rate per thousand employees decreased to 16.9 as well, down by 36.9 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 16 117 and 29.3 respectively, representing 62.5 and 54.7 per cent drop when compared to 43 034 and 64.7 in 1998.
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4.8 The number of industrial accidents in the construction industry decreased from 19 588 in 1998 to 3 042 in 2007, a hefty drop of 84.5 per cent, while the accident rate per thousand workers also decreased from 247.9 to 60.6, down by 75.6 per cent.
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Occupational Diseases
4.9 In 2007, there were 177 cases of confirmed occupational disease, compared with 264 in 2006. The incidence rate in 2007 was 6.8 cases per 100,000 employed workers, compared with 10.5 in 2006. In the ten years between 1998 and 2007, there was also a significant drop in both the number of cases and incidence rate by 81 per cent and 83 per cent respectively.
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4.10 For more statistics on occupational safety and health, please visit the following webpage: www.labour.gov.hk/eng/osh/content10.htm
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Key Indicators of Work
4.11 Some key indicators of work of this programme area are shown in Figure 4.1.
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Law Enforcement
4.12 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.
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4.13 A key element in enforcement is to advise on prevention of accidents. We conducted special promotional visits to encourage employers to adopt a proactive self-regulatory approach in managing risks at the workplace. We conducted 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 15 special blitz operations targeting at various high-risk work activities, including construction safety, safety of renovation and maintenance works, safety of tower cranes, safe operation of vehicles/mobile plant on construction sites, safe use of ladders and electricity, catering safety, cargo and container-handling safety, fire and chemical safety and safety in wholesale and retail trade. 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 15 operations, a total of 35 659 workplaces were inspected, with 627 prosecutions initiated, 572 improvement notices and 41 suspension notices issued. We also organised a joint operation targeting at the use of truss-out scaffolds with the Buildings Department and 19 suspension notices were served in this special exercise.
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4.14 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. We have also enhanced the intelligence reporting system on unsafe renovation and maintenance works with the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies. In 2007, a total of 407 enquiry/complaint/referral cases were received through the system and other channels. As a result of the inspections to follow up on these cases, 95 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 73 prosecutions were taken out.
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4.15 In the year, we conducted focused inspections to industrial establishments to ensure that occupational health hazards including noise, chemicals and air impurities were adequately controlled. In addition, we stepped up inspections of drainage maintenance worksites to make sure that contractors took appropriate control measures in accordance with the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Confined Spaces) Regulation. To ensure that employers abided by the Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among employees using display screen equipment for prolonged periods of time, we also conducted focused inspections to office workplaces. In these inspections, altogether 406 warnings and 79 improvement notices were issued and five prosecutions were taken out.
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4.16 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 2007, 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 2007, 416 applications for certificates of competency were processed, with 374 certificates issued/endorsed. At the same time, we advise the Fire Services Department on approval and preliminary inspections of pressurised cylinders and storage installations for compressed gas.
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4.17 As at the end of 2007, a total of 171 256 workplaces, including 16 597 construction sites, were recorded. In the year, 111 933 inspections were conducted under the OSHO and the FIUO, while 4 645 inspections were made under the BPVO. As a result, 32 938 warnings were issued by Occupational Safety Officers while 2 696 warnings were given under the BPVO. Altogether, 1 619 suspension or improvement notices were issued. We also carried out 11 205 and 1 966 investigations on accidents and suspected occupational diseases respectively in the year.
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Safety Training and Occupational Health Education
4.18 We provide training-related services to help reduce occupational injuries. Such services are divided into three broad categories, namely, provision of training courses, recognition of mandatory safety training courses and registration of safety officers and safety auditors.
 
A talk on major safety regulations related to working on construction sites.
A talk on major safety regulations related to working on construction sites.
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4.19 In 2007, we conducted 504 legislation-related safety and health training courses for 4 058 employees and 321 tailor-made talks for another 12 114. We also recognised 10 mandatory basic safety training courses for the construction and container-handling industries. As at year end, more than 917 000 persons have completed the training. In addition, we recognised four confined spaces safety training courses and 12 loadshifting machinery safety training courses.
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4.20 In 2007, 92 applicants were registered as safety officers while 62 applicants were registered as safety auditors. As at the end of 2007, there were 2 993 persons on the register of safety officers and 917 persons on the register of safety auditors. Furthermore, we started to process applications for renewal or revalidation of registration as safety officers with effect from September 7, 2005. A total of 1 724 applicants were approved for renewal or validation of their registrations as at the end of 2007.
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4.21 Occupational health education is an important strategy for the prevention of occupational health hazards and occupational diseases. Apart from 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 2007, we delivered a total of 1 464 health talks.
 
An occupational health talk organised at a Community Hall.
An occupational health talk organised at a Community Hall.
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Safety and Health Promotion
4.22 To inculcate a safety culture and enhance safety awareness, we organised a series of promotional activities in 2007, some in conjunction with other organisations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Council, trade associations, workers' unions and other government departments.
 
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching with the officiating guests of the Occupational Health Carnival.
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching with the officiating guests of the Occupational Health Carnival.
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4.23 To promote safety awareness in operating boilers and pressure vessels, we organised jointly with the Occupational Safety and Health Council, professional bodies, other major stake holders and associations in the trade, a large-scale seminar to enable the sharing of professional knowledge and experience on topics relating to regulation approaches, standards, operation and maintenance of boilers and pressure vessels.
 
The 20th Boilers and Pressure Vessels Seminar.
The 20th Boilers and Pressure Vessels Seminar.
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4.24 Under the Customer Service Teams Project, volunteers visited 21 618 SMEs of business services, sanitary and similar services, and wholesale and retail trade to disseminate safety messages to employers and employees.
 
Customer Service Teams Project 2007 - Certificate Presentation Ceremony.
Customer Service Teams Project 2007 - Certificate Presentation Ceremony.
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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 2006/2007 - Award Presentation Ceremony
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme 2006/2007 - Award Presentation Ceremony
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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 work safety of truss-out scaffold commonly used in building renovation and maintenance work.
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4.27 The Labour Department continued to launch jointly with the Occupational Safety and Health Council the SMEs Sponsorship Scheme for Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work to provide SMEs with financial assistance to purchase fall protection equipment and anchor device for use in work-at-height.
 
SMEs Sponsorship Scheme for Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work.
SMEs Sponsorship Scheme for Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work.
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4.28 In 2007, we joined hands again with the Occupational Safety and Health Council to launch a new sponsorship scheme, the Cut Resistant Gloves and Slip Resistant Shoes Sponsorship Scheme for Catering SMEs, to provide these enterprises with financial assistance to purchase cut resistant gloves and slip resistant shoes for protecting frontline workers from cut and slip injuries in catering establishments.
 
Cut Resistant Gloves and Slip Resistant Shoes Sponsorship Scheme for Catering SMEs.
Cut Resistant Gloves and Slip Resistant Shoes Sponsorship Scheme for Catering SMEs.
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4.29 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 2007, 1 008 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.
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Tsuen Wan Safe and Healthy Community - Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony.
Tsuen Wan Safe and Healthy Community - Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony.
   
4.30 To complement the enforcement campaign targeted at drainage maintenance worksites, we strengthened our publicity efforts to promote the prevention of gas poisoning for drainage workers. This was achieved through video shows on mobile advertising media, occupational health talks and guidebooks.
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4.31 In 2007, we published 18 new occupational safety and health publications, including guidance notes on safe use of chemical disinfectants and safe use of power-operated elevating work platforms, casebook of occupational fatalities related to truss-out bamboo scaffolding works, occupational safety and health statistics bulletin issue No. 7 (July 2007), hints on building maintenance-bamboo scaffolding safety, guides on the prevention of gas poisoning in drainage work, a booklet on exercise and work, and a series of booklets on safety and health at work in relation to common diseases (e.g. diabetes and hypertension) affecting the working population.
 
Latest publications on occupational health.
Latest publications on occupational health.
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4.32 In 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch handled 15 413 enquiries, advising on various safety and health matters. Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Centre provides information and advisory services to workers and employers.
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Clinical Occupational Health Services
4.33 The Labour Department runs the Kwun Tong and Fanling Occupational Health Clinics that provide 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.

In 2007, 13 098 clinical consultations were rendered, and 2 837 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.
 
Patient support group organised by the Kwun Tong Occupational Health Clinic.
Patient support group organised by the Kwun Tong Occupational Health Clinic.