Labour Department adopts multi-pronged approach to promote occupational safety of construction industry

     The Commissioner for Labour, Mr Carlson Chan, has said that he is highly concerned about the recent spate of fatal industrial accidents and pledged that the Labour Department (LD) will investigate the causes of the accidents in full. The LD will continue to work with stakeholders to improve safety measures and step up promotion and education efforts, with the aim of enhancing the occupational safety and health of the construction industry.

     Speaking at the Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme Award Presentation Ceremony and Fun Day today (March 19), Mr Chan said that with the concerted efforts of the LD and the industry, there was a notable improvement in the occupational safety and health performance of the construction industry last year. The industrial accident rate per 1 000 workers dropped to 34.8 in the first three quarters of 2016 from 39.6 in the corresponding period of 2015. However, the number of work-at-height fatalities remained high. This year, there have been 10 workplace fatalities so far, of which five involved workers falling from height, he added.

     "The LD is highly concerned about the accidents. Apart from investigating the cases in full and having issued Work Safety Alerts to duty holders, including contractors, trade associations and workers' unions, the LD is rolling out a series of initiatives to curb recurrence of similar accidents. The department has arranged to meet with industry stakeholders to discuss how to further enhance the safety awareness of employers and employees. The LD has also reminded the industry to take suitable and adequate safety measures to protect workers' safety," Mr Chan said.
     "Moreover, as quite a number of the fatal industrial accidents involved workers falling from height, such as falling from metal or bamboo scaffolds, the LD will step up enforcement efforts and will shortly launch a special enforcement operation, targeting work-at-height safety in the construction industry. Special attention will be paid to high-risk processes, such as scaffolding work, to deter unsafe work activities.

     "During the enforcement operation, the LD will take vigorous enforcement actions if violation of occupational safety and health legislation is detected, including issuing suspension notices to suspend the associated work processes and initiating prosecutions if necessary."
     Mr Chan noted that the LD will continue to work with the stakeholders, professional groups, relevant organisations and other government departments to improve work-at-height safety measures, including encouraging contractors and workers to use mobile working platforms which comply with the specified safety standards, and requiring workers to use safety helmets with chin straps. The LD and the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) will launch a new sponsoring scheme later this year to promote the use of safety helmets with chin straps when working at height, he added.

     To safeguard the safety of workers, Mr Chan pointed out that the LD will continue to curb systemic safety risks of the construction industry at source and strengthen analyses of systemic safety problems behind serious accidents. He also noted that the LD had issued advisory letters to all relevant duty holders, urging them to step up safety measures to ensure the occupational safety and health of workers, including the conduct of risk assessment for work processes, and devising appropriate systems of work and provision of suitable personal protective equipment.

     The LD will continue to organise large-scale promotional and publicity programmes to raise the standard and awareness of occupational safety and health in the construction sectors, including collaborating with industry stakeholders to organise safety talks and seminars as well as staging roving exhibitions at locations near renovation and repair sites to enhance the awareness among workers, including ethnic minorities, and the general public, he added.
     Mr Chan said the LD had increased the frequency of broadcasting the relevant TV and radio Announcements in the Public Interest to remind employers to provide safe working platforms, suitable personal protective equipment and anchorage to workers. Workers should attach their personal protective equipment to independent lifelines and other forms of secure anchorage. The department will also widely promote the aforementioned messages through other channels such as public transport and safety promotion activities.

     This year marks the 18th anniversary of the Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme, which aims to raise the safety and health awareness of contractors, site personnel and workers of the construction industry, to foster a positive safety culture, to encourage the adoption of safe work practices, and through open competition to reward the contestants in recognition of their good occupational safety and health performance.

     The award scheme's site safety competition has gained enthusiastic participation from a total of 197 construction sites, 65 sub-contractors and 143 safety teams this year.

     The Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme is co-organised by the LD, the OSHC, the Development Bureau, the Hong Kong Housing Authority, the Occupational Deafness Compensation Board, the Construction Industry Council, the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board, the Hong Kong Housing Society, the Hong Kong Construction Association, the Hong Kong General Building Contractors Association, the Hong Kong Construction Sub-Contractors Association, the Hong Kong Federation of Electrical and Mechanical Contractors Limited, the Minor Works Contractor Association, the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies, the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union and the Federation of Hong Kong Electrical and Mechanical Industries Trade Unions. The Chairman of the OSHC, Mr Conrad Wong, and representatives of the co-organisers also officiated at the award presentation ceremony today.