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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 inspection 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 enhance safety awareness of the workforce.
 
4.2 OSHO protects employees' safety and health at work generally in all branches of economic activities. It is 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.
 
4.3 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.
 
4.4 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 2015
Work Safety Performance
4.5 Through the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, including employers, employees, contractors, safety practitioners, and the Government and public sector organisations, Hong Kong's work safety performance has been improving.
 
4.6 The number of occupational injuries in all workplaces in 2015 stood at 35 852, representing a drop of 23.6% from 46 937 in 2006, while the injury rate per thousand employees decreased to 12.1, down by 34.5% when compared to 18.4 in 2006. The number of industrial accidents for all sectors went down to 11 497, representing 33.5% drop when compared to 17 286 in 2006. The accident rate per thousand workers for all sectors in 2006 and 2015 were 31.5 and 18.41 respectively.
 
4.7 In 2015, there were 3 723 industrial accidents in the construction industry, representing an increase of 9.5% when compared to 3 400 in 2006. The accident rate per thousand workers, however, decreased from 64.3 to 39.1, down by 39.1%.
 
Occupational Diseases
4.8 In 2015, there were 256 cases of confirmed occupational disease (including monaural hearing loss), among which, occupational deafness, silicosis and tenosynovitis of the hand or forearm were the most common.
 
4.9 For more statistics on occupational safety and health, please visit the webpage: www.labour.gov.hk/eng/osh/content10.htm.
 
Key Indicators of Work
4.10 Some key indicators of work of this programme area were shown in Figure 4.1.
 
Inspection and Enforcement
4.11 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.
 
4.12 A key element in enforcement is to give advice on the prevention of accidents. We conduct promotional visits to encourage employers to proactively adopt a self-regulatory approach in managing risks at the workplace and regular enforcement inspections to various workplaces to ensure that duty-holders have observed relevant statutory requirements stipulated in safety legislation. We have stepped up inspection and enforcement efforts to clamp down on unsafe acts. In 2015, 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. In 2015, we also conducted 13 special enforcement operations targeting high-risk work safety, including new works safety, safety of repair, maintenance, alteration, and addition (RMAA) works, electrical safety, bamboo scaffolding safety, work safety for sea-based construction works, safety of waste management works, catering safety, logistic, cargo and container-handling safety as well as fire and chemical safety. In these 13 operations, a total of 13 835 workplaces were inspected, with 1 142 improvement notices and 432 suspension notices issued, and 974 prosecutions initiated.
 
4.13 We conduct independent investigation into complaints lodged by workers on unsafe conditions or malpractices in workplaces. In 2015, we handled 88 complaints and initiated 10 prosecutions arising from investigation of these cases. We also enhanced the intelligence reporting system on unsafe RMAA works with various strategic partners. In 2015, a total of 709 complaint/referral cases were received through the system and other channels. As a result of the follow-up inspections on these cases, we issued 146 suspension/improvement notices and took out 87 prosecutions. We had also established a similar referral mechanism with the Housing Department. In 2015, we received through the mechanism a total of 5 775 notifications of high risk RMAA works in public housing estates and followed up on these referrals.
 
4.14 From April to September, the Labour Department (LD) stepped up its enforcement, while enhancing publicity on prevention of heat stroke at work during the hot weather, targeting outdoor workplaces with a higher risk of heat stroke, such as construction sites, outdoor cleansing workplaces and container yards. In this special enforcement campaign, we conducted a total of 30 306 surprise inspections, and issued 27 warnings and one improvement notice.
 
4.15 The Commissioner for Labour, as the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority, recognises competent inspection bodies to assess and inspect new pressure equipment during manufacturing. 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 2015, 508 applications for certificates of competency were processed, with 506 certificates issued/endorsed. We also advised the Fire Services Department on matters related to the approval and preliminary inspections of pressurised cylinders and storage installations for compressed gas.
 
4.16 As at the end of 2015, there were a total of 219 471 workplaces, including 33 160 construction sites, in Hong Kong. In the year, 130 173 inspections were conducted under OSHO and FIUO. As a result, 32 812 warnings and 3 145 suspension or improvement notices were issued. Besides, 4 748 inspections were made under BPVO. 3 400 warnings were given and 38 prohibition orders on the use and operation of boilers and pressure vessels were issued. We also carried out 15 046 and 3 433 investigations on work accidents and suspected occupational diseases respectively in the year.
 
Education and Training
4.17 We provide training-related services to employers, employees and relevant parties to foster a culture of respect for occupational safety and health among the working population. There are three categories of such services, namely provision of training courses, recognition of mandatory safety training (MST) courses and registration of safety officers and safety auditors.
 
4.18 In 2015, we conducted 529 safety and health training courses related to relevant legislation for 5 357 employees and 275 tailor-made talks for another 11 141. We also recognised five mandatory basic safety training courses (commonly known as "green card" courses) for construction work, 12 MST courses for operators of cranes, seven MST course for confined spaces operation and four MST courses for operators of loadshifting machiners. LD has in place a system to monitor these MST courses to ensure that courses are conducted in line with the approval conditions.
 
4.19 We continued to implement improvement measures of the MST system, including progressive extension of the measures of standardisation of course contents and enhancement of examination arrangement to other MST courses apart from the "green card" courses.
 
4.20 In 2015, we registered 312 persons as safety officers and 47 as safety auditors. As at the end of the year, there were 3 260 safety officers with valid registration and 1 225 registered safety auditors. Furthermore, a total of 417 applications for renewal or revalidation of registration as safety officers had been approved in 2015.
 
4.21 Occupational health education raises employers' and employees' awareness of the prevention of occupational health hazards and occupational diseases. In 2015, a total of 1 262 health talks on various occupational health issues was organised for over 44 000 participants. Apart from organising public health talks, we also provided outreaching health talks at the workplaces of individual organisations. These health talks covered various occupations with more than 40 different topics such as "Occupational Health for Office Workers", "Manual Handling Operations and Prevention of Back Injuries", "Occupational Health for Cleansing Workers", "Prevention of Lower Limb Disorders" and "Occupational Health in Catering Industry".
 
4.22 LD had uploaded the "Work Safety Alert" and "Systemic Safety Alert" on its website respectively to help raise the safety awareness of employers, contractors and workers and to remind the Registered Safety Officers and Registered Safety Auditors in exercising their statutory functions to advise their employers/clients to fulfill their safety responsibilities and render the necessary assistance. The Work Safety Alert summarised recent fatal and serious work accidents, and highlighted general safety precautionary measures whereas the Systemic Safety Alert provided accident prevention measures arising from the major systemic problems.
 
Publicity and Promotion
4.23 We organised a series of promotion campaigns in 2015 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 Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC), trade associations, workers' unions and other government departments.
 
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.
 
Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme - Award Presentation Ceremony
Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme -
Award Presentation Ceremony
 
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme - Award Presentation Ceremony
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme -
Award Presentation Ceremony
 
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 2015, LD, in collaboration with OSHC, continued to implement the two-year publicity campaign launched in 2014 to remind contractors and workers to pay special attention to safety while carrying out RMAA works, electrical work and working at height. Other 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 LD website, publishing leaflets and disseminating safety messages to contractors, employers and employees through various means.
 
4.26 To improve the safety performance on work-at-height of construction industry, we organised a Work-at-height Safety Forum in April 2015. We also organised a series of thematic safety seminars including lifting operation, RMAA works, falsework and confined space work to engage industry stakeholders in exploring means to further enhance the construction safety standard of the industry players. In 2015, LD and OSHC jointly expanded the mobile working platform sponsorship scheme and further launched a light-duty working platform sponsorship scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to purchase up-to-standard light-duty working platform, including step platform and hop-up platform for the use at special working environment such as restrictive spaces. Both schemes have been wrapped up by the end of September 2015. More than 3 000 applications for the mobile working platform sponsorship scheme were received, of which 2 816 applications were approved, benefiting more than 31 000 workers. Besides, the light-duty working platform sponsorship scheme received more than 2 600 applications, of which 2 481 applications were approved, benefiting almost 28 000 workers.
 
4.27 LD continued to operate jointly with OSHC the sponsorship scheme for Work-at-height Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work for SMEs to encourage them to use proper safety equipment.
 
4.28 LD and OSHC continued the scheme on RMAA safety accreditation in 2015. It enhances the OSH standard of the industry through the auditing of safety management system, training and subsidising SMEs to purchase fall arresting equipment and related facilities. The Employees' Compensation Insurance Residual Scheme Bureau undertook to offer insurance premium discount to accredited contractors, and thus provides financial incentives for enterprises to continuously improve their occupational safety performance.
 
4.29 The Occupational Safety Charter, launched jointly with 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 2015, 1 223 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.
 
Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony
Occupational Safety Charter Signing Ceremony
 
4.30 We also collaborated with relevant organisations including 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 ceremony, workplace hygiene charter and promotional visits. Moreover, we promoted the prevention of common work-related diseases, such as musculoskeletal disorders which are common among service and clerical personnel and manual workers. In 2015, we continued to collaborate with OSHC, Department of Health and trade unions to promote healthy living among professional drivers. The publicity activities included paying promotional visits to transport termini, distributing educational pamphlets and promotional souvenirs, and organising diet and exercise counselling services by professional dietitian and physical fitness instructor respectively.
 
4.31 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, distributing publications, printing promotional posters, broadcasting educational videos on mobile advertising media, and issuing press releases. In the year, apart from distributing the pamphlet "Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work in a Hot Environment" and promoting a general checklist on "Risk Assessment for the Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work", we also collaborated with OSHC and relevant workers' unions to promote prevention of heat stroke at work among professional drivers.
 
Health talk on ‘prevention of heat stroke' to construction site workers
Health talk on ‘prevention of heat stroke' to construction site workers
 
Opening ceremony on Prevention of Heat Stroke
Opening ceremony on Prevention of Heat Stroke
 
4.32 In 2015, we published 17 new occupational safety and health publications, including "Guidance Notes on Work Safety and Health of Air-conditioning Works", "Safety Guide for Construction Work over/ near Water", "Work and Stress", "Registration of Steam Boilers" and posters related to falsework safety. Moreover, we published publications in languages of ethnic minorities for promoting to them work safety and health.
 
Latest publications on occupational safety and health
Latest publications on occupational safety and health
 
Occupational safety and health publications for ethnic minorities
Occupational safety and health publications for ethnic minorities
 
4.33 To promote safety awareness of the industry in operating boilers and pressure vessels, we organised a seminar jointly with OSHC, professional bodies and major industry stakeholders, themed "Risk Based Safety Management to Boilers and Pressure Vessels" in 2015. We also distributed a total of 8 785 publications and leaflets to promote the registration and safe operation of boilers and pressure vessels in 2015.
 
4.34 In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch handled 16 265 enquiries, advising on various safety and health matters. Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Centre provides information and advisory services to workers and employers.
 
Clinical Occupational Health Services
4.35 LD 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. Workplaces of the patients are inspected if necessary to identify and evaluate occupational health hazards in the work environment.
 
4.36 In 2015, 9 054 clinical consultations were rendered. Moreover, five patient support groups were organised to help patients achieve more desirable rehabilitation progress through health talks, experience sharing and peer support.
 
 
  The compilation of the accident rate per thousand workers of all industrial sectors in 2015 was based on the employment size classified under Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification Version 2.0 (HSIC V2.0) which was different from those under HSIC V1.1 before 2009. Therefore, this accident rate cannot be strictly comparable to those published before 2009.