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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 boilers and pressure vessels, including steam boilers, steam receivers and air receivers.
 
Our Work and Achievements in 2016
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 2016 stood at 35 768, representing a drop of 18.7% from 43 979 in 2007, while the injury rate per thousand employees decreased to 11.9, down by 29.2% when compared to 16.9 in 2007. The number of industrial accidents for all sectors went down to 10 883, representing 32.5% drop when compared to 16 117 in 2007. The accident rate per thousand workers for all sectors in 2007 and 2016 were 29.3 and 17.11 respectively.
 
4.7 In 2016, there were 3 720 industrial accidents in the construction industry, representing an increase of 22.3% when compared to 3 042 in 2007. The accident rate per thousand workers, however, decreased from 60.6 to 34.5, down by 43.1%.
 
Occupational Diseases
4.8 In 2016, there were 334 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 2016, 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 2016, we also conducted 16 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 16 operations, a total of 16 904 workplaces were inspected, with 1 121 improvement notices and 283 suspension notices issued, and 979 prosecutions initiated.
 
4.13 We conduct independent investigation into complaints lodged by workers on unsafe conditions or malpractices in workplaces. In 2016, we handled 100 complaints and initiated 20 prosecutions arising from investigation of these cases. We also enhanced the intelligence reporting system on unsafe RMAA works with various strategic partners. In 2016, a total of 707 complaint/referral cases were received through the system and other channels. As a result of the follow-up inspections on these cases, we issued 282 suspension/improvement notices and took out 108 prosecutions. We had also established a similar referral mechanism with the Housing Department. In 2016, we received through the mechanism a total of 4 189 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 28 489 surprise inspections, issued 95 warnings and one improvement notice, and one prosecution was taken.
 
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 2016, 535 applications for certificates of competency were processed, with 523 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 2016, LD recorded a total of 223 074 workplaces, including 35 108 construction sites. In the year, 131 339 inspections were conducted under OSHO and FIUO. As a result, 31 062 warnings and 3 085 suspension or improvement notices were issued. Besides, 4 535 inspections were made under BPVO. 3 144 warnings were given and 45 prohibition orders on the use and operation of boilers and pressure vessels were issued. We also carried out 14 730 and 2 983 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 2016, we conducted 553 safety and health training courses related to relevant legislation for 4 698 employees and 251 tailor-made talks for another 10 127. We also recognised two mandatory basic safety training courses (commonly known as “green card” courses) for construction work, seven MST courses for operators of cranes, four MST courses for confined spaces operation, one MST course for operators of loadshifting machine and one MST course for gas welding. LD has in place a system to monitor these MST courses to ensure that courses are conducted in line with the approval conditions. We also continued to implement improvement measures of the MST system.
 
4.19 In 2016, we registered 339 persons as safety officers and 38 as safety auditors. As at the end of the year, there were 3 607 safety officers with valid registration and 1 261 registered safety auditors. Furthermore, a total of 456 applications for renewal or revalidation of registration as safety officers had been approved in 2016.
 
4.20 Occupational health education raises employers’ and employees’ awareness of the prevention of occupational health hazards and occupational diseases. In 2016, a total of 1 260 health talks on various occupational health issues was organised for over 40 000 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”.
 
Occupational health messages promoted to the public during outreach health talk held in the HK Brands and Products Expo
Occupational health messages promoted to the public during outreach health talk held in the HK Brands and Products Expo
 
4.21 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
4.22 We organised a series of promotion campaigns in 2016 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.
 
4.23 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
 
4.24 Accidents in RMAA works have become a source of growing concern in recent years and the volume of RMAA works continued to increase. In 2016, LD, in collaboration with OSHC, launched a two-year publicity campaign 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 (APIs) 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. In 2016, we in collaboration with OSHC produced safety promotional videos on "Work-at-height" and "Electrical Work Safety" for broadcast on the website of LD and OSHC, the Housing Channel of Housing Authority, district job centres and Social Welfare Department offices.
 
4.25 In May 2016, LD and OSHC jointly launched a new portable residual current device (PRCD) sponsorship scheme for SMEs in the construction, RMAA, and electrical/mechanical engineering sectors to subsidise their purchase of PRCD that met the safety standard to enhance electrical work safety. In December 2016, the scope of the scheme was extended to real estate maintenance management & servicing and repairing of motor vehicles and motorcycles to benefit more workers. As at the end of 2016, 346 applications were received with 302 approved, benefiting over 4 300 workers.
 
4.26 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.
 
4.27 LD and OSHC continued with the scheme on RMAA safety accreditation in 2016. 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.
 
4.28 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 2016, 1 224 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
 
4.29 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 2016, we continued to collaborate with OSHC, Department of Health and trade unions to promote healthy living among professional drivers.
 
4.30 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. During 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.
 
The Labour Department’s TV API promoting the messages of prevention of heat stroke at work
The Labour Department’s TV API promoting the messages of prevention of heat stroke at work
 
4.31 In 2016, we published 21 new occupational safety and health publications, including “Guidance Notes on Safety at Work for Demounting, Mounting and Inflation of Tyres of Heavy Mechanical Vehicles”, “Electrically Heated Boilers and Their Operation”, “An Employer’s Guide to Manual Handling Operation”, “An Employee’s Guide to Manual Handling Operation”, “An Employer’s Guide to Work Involving Repetitive Movements or Manual Work”, “An Employee’s Guide to Work Involving Repetitive Movements or Manual Work” as well as posters related to tail lift safety and proper use of chin straps of safety helmets. 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
 
A poster with ethnic minority languages produced by the Labour Department to promote the preventive measures on heat stroke at work
A poster with ethnic minority languages produced by the Labour Department to promote the preventive measures on heat stroke at work
 
4.32 To promote safety awareness of the industry in operating boilers and pressure vessels, we distributed around 3 000 publications and leaflets regarding registration and safe operation of pressure equipment. We also uploaded 13 existing publications onto the LD website for public reference and downloading.
 
4.33 In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Branch handled 15 400 enquiries, advising on various safety and health matters. Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Centre provides information and advisory services to workers and employers.
 
4.34 LD collaborated with property management sector to promote RMAA work safety. A Task Force was formed to step up the promotion of work-at-height safety to stakeholders including contractors and workers on the use of suitable working platforms instead of ladders for working above ground and the use of safety helmets with chin straps.
 
4.35 LD collaborated with OSHC to ride on Home Affairs Department’s community platforms to promote RMAA works safety particularly work-at-height safety, to owners’ corporations, property owners and tenants, etc.
 
Clinical Occupational Health Services
4.36 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.
 
4.37 In 2016, 10 444 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.
 
Attendees actively participating in the activities of the support groups held by the Occupational Health Clinic
Attendees actively participating in the activities of the support groups held by the Occupational Health Clinic
 
 
  The compilation of the accident rate per thousand workers of all industrial sectors in 2016 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.