Call to widen scope of site safety rules
By KEITH WALLIS
THE appalling accident record in the construction industry will improve only if safety regulations are widened to be imposed on developers and architects, a seminar heard yesterday.
The proposal, based on European-style regulations, was outlined yesterday at a construction safety seminar organised by the Hong Kong Construction Association.
Last year, 83 people were killed and nearly 18,000 were injured in site accidents. The figures were down by about a third in the first nine months of this year, but the Government has said this was still too high.
David Bateson, a senior partner with a construction law firm, Bateson Starr, said: 'The only way the Government will achieve any radical improvement in site safety will be to widen the net and impose regulations on all parties involved in the industry.' Mr Bateson said European Union directives demand safe working practices be incorporated while construction projects are still on the drawing board. These practices include allowing proper working platforms and safe access for workers.
'These rules have fundamentally changed the attitude to health and safety,' he said.
The suggestion was welcomed by Chan Kam-hong, chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, who said the group has been campaigning for the Government to run safety awareness courses for architectural and engineering students.
'If people think more about safety from the start, then it will solve a lot of problems later. It will reduce the exposure to workers in dangerous areas,' he said.
'Architects and engineers do not have the safety concept. They are only interested in how beautiful their buildings are, not how safely they are constructed,' he said.
Anthony Linehan, a special labour adviser to the Hong Kong Government and a former chief inspector of factories in Britain, said there had been opposition from architects and engineers in the UK, because new regulations ask designers to consider fundamental principals of health and safety.
There were also calls for the Government to overhaul the present training system, so that there is a compulsory safety education programme.
David Gem, general manager of Shui On Civil Contractors, said a significant number of imported workers, untrained in safety, would be arriving over the next three years in response to the shortage of labour caused by the airport projects.