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 through the three-pronged strategy of legislation and enforcement, education and training, as well as publicity 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;
‧  providing to employers, employees and the general public appropriate information and advice to promote knowledge and understanding of occupational safety and health; and
organising promotional programmes and training courses to improve safety awareness of the workforce.
 

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4.2

The Labour Department establishes the legislative framework to safeguard safety and health at work. 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 a piece of 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 2009
 

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 2009 stood at 39 579, representing a drop of 31.9 per cent from 58 092 in 2000, while the injury rate per thousand employees decreased to 15.0, down by 35.6 per cent when compared to 23.3 in 2000. The number of industrial accidents for all sectors went down to 13 600, representing 59.6 per cent drop when compared to 33 652 in 2000.  The accident rate per thousand workers for all sectors in 2000 and 2009 were 51.7 and 24.6* respectively.

*The compilation of the accident rate per 1 000 workers of all industrial sectors in 2009 is based on the employment size classified under Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Version 2.0 (HSIC V2.0) which is different from those under HSIC V1.1 in previous years. Therefore, this accident rate cannot be strictly comparable to those published in previous years.

 

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4.8

The number of industrial accidents in the construction industry decreased significantly by 76.9 per cent, from 11 925 in 2000 to 2 755 in 2009, while the accident rate per thousand workers also decreased from 149.8 to 54.6, down by 63.6 per cent.

 

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Occupational Diseases

4.9 In 2009, there were 268 cases of confirmed occupational disease. Compared with 504 cases in 2000, this represented a substantial drop in the number of occupational disease cases in the past 10 years. Silicosis, occupational deafness, tenosynovitis of the hand or forearm and tuberculosis were the most common occupational diseases in the year.
 

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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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Enforcement

4.12

To ensure 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 give advice on the prevention of accidents. In 2009, we conducted promotional visits to encourage employers to adopt a proactive self-regulatory approach in managing risks at the workplace. We also conducted regular enforcement inspections to various workplaces to ensure that duty-holders had observed all related statutory requirements stipulated in safety legislation. In addition, we conducted 18 special blitz operations targeting at various high-risk work activities, including construction safety, safety of renovation and maintenance works, lift and escalator maintenance and repair safety, safe use of electricity, safety of tower cranes, safe operation of vehicles/mobile plant on construction sites, catering safety, cargo and container-handling safety, safe use of calendering machines as well as fire and chemical safety. 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 unsafe acts. In these 18 operations, a total of 28 048 workplaces were inspected, with 453 prosecutions initiated, and 436 improvement notices and 22 suspension notices issued.
 

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4.14

We continued to place 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 have shown significant improvements in their safety performance. To handle workers’ complaints on work safety more effectively, our Central Inspection Team conducted independent investigation into complaints lodged by workers and encouraged workers to report unsafe conditions or malpractices in workplaces. In 2009, the team handled 178 complaints and initiated five prosecutions arising from investigation of these cases. We also enhanced the intelligence reporting system on unsafe RMAA works with the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies. In 2009, a total of 545 enquiry/complaint/referral cases were received through the system and other channels. As a result of the inspections to follow up on these cases, 70 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 57 prosecutions were taken out. We had also established a similar referral mechanism with the Housing Department. In 2009, we received through the mechanism a total of 3 350 notifications of high risk RMAA works in housing estates and followed up on these referrals.

 

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4.15

On 1 May, the first case of human swine influenza A/H1N1 was confirmed in Hong Kong. Upon the elevation of Government’s response level to “Emergency Response”, we activated our departmental mobilization plan immediately to step up inspections of workplaces at a higher risk of infection to ensure adequate infection control measures to safeguard the health of employees. As at the end of 2009, all 53 public and private hospitals, two slaughterhouses and 11 boundary control points, as well as 83 General Outpatient Clinics under the Hospital Authority, and Tuberculosis and Chest Clinics under the Department of Health had been inspected. We also inspected 289 elderly homes, 13 pig farms, 88 workplaces of cleansing contractors, 94 schools suspended due to outbreak of the infection, and 3 900 restaurants.  During the same period, we issued a total of 293 warnings and nine improvement notices.

 

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4.16

 

From April to September, the department stepped up its enforcement, while enhancing publicity on prevention of heat stroke at work during hot weather, targeting outdoor and indoor workplaces with a higher risk of heat stroke, such as construction sites, outdoor cleansing workplaces, restaurant kitchens, food factories and laundries, to ensure adequate protection of workers from heat stroke at work. In this special enforcement campaign, we conducted a total of 9 416 surprise inspections, and issued a total of 207 warnings and eight improvement notices, as well as took out three prosecutions.

An Occupational Hygienist assessing the risk of heat stress at an indoor workplace.

An Occupational Hygienist assessing the risk of heat stress at an indoor workplace.

 

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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 2009, there were 30 appointed examiners and seven recognised inspection bodies. In addition, 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 2009, 337 applications for certificates of competency were processed, with 309 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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4.18

As at the end of 2009, a total of 180 673 workplaces, including 19 636 construction sites, were recorded.  In the year, 119 029 inspections were conducted under the OSHO and the FIUO, while 4 713 inspections were made under the BPVO.  As a result, 30 559 warnings were issued by Occupational Safety Officers while 3 539 warnings were given under the BPVO.  Altogether, 1 377 suspension or improvement notices were issued. We also carried out 11 580 and 3 155 investigations on accidents and suspected occupational diseases respectively in the year.

An Occupational Safety Officer conducting inspection at a construction site.

An Occupational Safety Officer conducting inspection at a construction site.

 

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Education and Training

4.19

To foster a culture of respect for occupational safety and health among the working population, we provide training-related services to employers, employees and stakeholders. Such services are divided into three categories – provision of training courses, recognition of mandatory safety training courses and registration of safety officers and safety auditors.

 

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4.20

In 2009, we conducted 492 legislation-related safety and health training courses for 3 837 employees and 336 tailor-made talks for another 9 918. We also recognised six mandatory basic safety training courses (commonly known as “green card” courses) for the construction and container-handling industries. In addition, we recognised one confined spaces safety training course, six crane operator training courses, one gas welding safety training course and one loadshifting machinery safety training course. The Labour Department has in place a system to monitor these recognised safety training courses to ensure their standard. This includes surprise inspections to ensure that courses are conducted in line with the terms of approval.

An Occupational Safety Officer taught workers at a safety seminar on how to use fall protection equipment correctly.

An Occupational Safety Officer taught workers at a safety seminar on how to use fall protection equipment correctly.

 

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4.21

In 2009, we registered 92 persons as safety officers and 29 as safety auditors. As at the end of the year, there were 2 338 safety officers with valid registration and 981 registered safety auditors. Furthermore, we started to process applications for renewal and revalidation of registration as safety officers in September 2005. A total of 2 032 such applicants had been approved as at the end of 2009.

 

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4.22 Occupational health education empowers employers and employees on the prevention of occupational health hazards and occupational diseases. In 2009, a total of 1 394 health talks on various occupational health issues was organised for over 47 500 participants. Apart from organising public health talks, we also provided outreaching health talks at the workplaces of individual organisations. These health talks covered more than 30 different topics e.g. “Manual Handling Operation and Prevention of Back Injuries”, “Health Hazards of Asbestos”, “Health Hazards of Hot Environment at Work”, and “Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders for Office Workers”.
 

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Publicity and Promotion

4.23

We organised a series of promotion campaigns in 2009 aiming at heightening safety awareness among employers and employees and cultivating a positive safety culture at the workplaces, some jointly with relevant stakeholders such as the OSHC, trade associations, workers’ unions and other government departments.

 

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4.24

The Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme and the Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme were organised again in the year. The two Schemes were well received by the industries.

 

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4.25 Accidents in RMAA works have become a source of growing concern in recent years and the volume of RMAA works continued to increase. In 2009, the Labour Department in collaboration with the OSHC, trade associations, workers’ unions and other stakeholders, continued to implement the two year territory-wide promotion campaign launched in November 2008 to publicise the safety of RMAA works and work-at-height. Major publicity activities included broadcasting “Announcements in the Public Interest” on television/ radio/mobile media, staging roving exhibitions, publishing feature articles in newspapers and on the Labour Department website, publishing leaflets and disseminating safety messages to contractors, employers and employees through various means.
 

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4.26

We also partnered with the OSHC, District Councils, District Offices, Safe and Healthy Communities in various districts and the property management sector to organise publicity and promotional activities to promulgate work-at-height and RMAA works safety at district level, including organising safety seminars to promote awareness in the property management sector and property owners. Such publicity and promotional activities have already been launched in 14 districts and will continue to be extended to all districts.

Promotional programme on RMAA works safety at district level.

Promotional programme on RMAA works safety at district level.

 

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4.27

The Labour Department continued to operate jointly with the OSHC various sponsorship schemes to encourage SMEs to use proper safety equipment. These included the Sponsorship Scheme for Work-at-height Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work for SMEs, the Cut Resistant Gloves and Slip Resistant Shoes Sponsorship Scheme for Catering SMEs and the Reversing Video Device Sponsorship Scheme for Heavy Vehicles on Construction Sites.

 

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4.28

The Occupational Safety Charter, launched jointly with the OSHC 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 to create a safe and healthy working environment. By the end of 2009, 1 090 organisations, including public utilities companies, industrial and non-industrial establishments, banks, construction companies, unions, associations and community organisations, had subscribed to the Occupational Safety Charter.

The Federation of Environmental and Hygienic Services -- Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony.

The Federation of Environmental and Hygienic Services -- Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony.

 

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4.29

We also collaborated with relevant stakeholders including the OSHC, Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board, Occupational Deafness Compensation Board, employers’ associations, trade unions and community groups in promoting occupational health through a variety of activities such as carnivals, occupational health award presentations, workplace hygiene charter and promotional visits. In partnership with these stakeholders, we launched integrated publicity programmes in the year to promote an educational kit on comprehensive strategies for preventing different occupational diseases. In fact, our promotion and public education work went well beyond occupational diseases. With a view to safeguarding the health of workers, we also extended our preventive work to common work-related diseases. Musculoskeletal disorders, common among workers in specific occupations like service and clerical personnel and manual workers in general, constituted an example.

Moreover, we also stepped up publicity on the prevention of heat stroke at work through a multitude of activities such as organising public and outreaching health talks, showing educational videos on mobile advertising media, and issuing press releases to remind employers and employees of the need for due care when working in the hot weather. In the year, we published a new checklist providing guidance to employers and employees for assessing the risk of heat stroke at workplaces and taking effective preventive measures.

Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching pictured with the representatives of organisations signing the Workplace Hygiene Charter.

Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching pictured with the representatives of organisations signing the Workplace Hygiene Charter.

 

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4.30

Under the Customer Service Teams Project, volunteers visited 14 286 catering establishments and SMEs of the RMAA works and sanitary and similar services to disseminate safety messages to employers and employees in the year.

Customer Service Teams Project 2009 -- Experience Sharing Gathering.

Customer Service Teams Project 2009 -- Experience Sharing Gathering.

 

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4.31

In 2009, we published 17 new occupational safety and health publications, including “A Safety Guide for Freight Container Inspection”, “A Safety Guide for Gate Work”, “Occupational Safety and Health Statistics Bulletin Issue No. 9 (August 2009)”, and booklets and leaflets for promoting health at work, e.g. “Guidelines for Employers and Employees – Prevention of Human Swine Influenza (Influenza A H1N1)”, “Risk Assessment for the Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work” and “Occupational Health of Workers in Pre-primary Education Institutions”. Moreover, we also published publications in the languages of ethnic minorities for promoting to them work safety and health.

 

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4.32

To promote the safety awareness of the industry in operating boilers and pressure vessels, we organised jointly with the OSHC, professional bodies, other major stakeholders and associations in the trade, a large-scale seminar to enable the sharing of professional knowledge and experience on topics relating to globalisation of standards and quality management of boilers and pressure vessels. We also distributed 6 167 publications and leaflets regarding the safe operation of boilers and pressure vessels, and reviewed and revised the “Code of Practice for Steam Receivers”.

Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching pictured with other officiating guests, representatives of organisers and overseas speakers at the opening ceremony of the 21st Boilers and Pressure Vessels Safety Seminar.

Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching pictured with other officiating guests, representatives of organisers and overseas speakers at the opening ceremony of the 21st Boilers and Pressure Vessels Safety Seminar.

 

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4.33

In 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch handled 14 574 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

4.34

The Labour Department runs occupational health clinics in Kwun Tong and Fanling, providing clinical consultations, medical treatment as well as occupational health education and counselling services for workers suffering from work-related and occupational diseases. The workplaces of the patients are inspected if necessary to identify and evaluate occupational health hazards in the work environment.

In 2009, 13 228 clinical consultations were rendered. Moreover, six patient support groups were organised to promote patients’ compliance with treatment and sustainability in good work practices through health talks, experience sharing and peer support.