Backstage hero has critical role in ensuring safe, reliable equipment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 1995, 12:00am

MANY Hong Kong residents think of them only as 'the grease people'. But the 6,500 employees of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department do more than just service police cars and fire trucks.

The EMSD is guardian of public safety when it comes to lifts, escalators and amusement rides in the territory. And it manages stage lights, sound and projection systems at all cultural and recreation buildings.

The department is the only body allowed to service certain kinds of plugs and adaptors, whether they are in homes or businesses.

It is also involved in phasing out chlorofluorocarbons, assessing indoor air quality, repairing traffic lights and advising the Government on technical aspects of potential breakdowns or failures at Daya Bay.

'Our staff have the ability to fit in anywhere,' said Hugh Phillipson, director of EMSD. 'You do not notice them but they are there.' The problem is the public has a misconception about the department's work. This is largely due to the fact that its offices in Causeway Bay and in Kowloon have large, visible work yards.

'People tend to think of us as a large garage because that's what they see,' Mr Phillipson said.

'They see the greasy, dirty guys in overalls but they don't see the guys doing sensitive, delicate things with medical equipment.' A former EMSD employee, Helius Ng, said: 'People on the street say, 'You are the grease people. You fix nuts and bolts'. But this is not true.' The department wants the public to know that it offers many services that affect people's daily lives.

It provides operation and maintenance services for government electronic, electrical, building services and mechanical installations.

This work is mainly carried out in hospitals, the airport, civic centres and office buildings.

The department also maintains a large fleet of government vehicles.

In addition, it advises the Government on energy policies and efficiency issues and monitors the performance of electrical utility companies.

It is currently working on a labelling system concerning the energy efficiency of fridges, air-conditioners and washing machines.

Its Medical Electronics Division and Hospital Engineering Services Sub-division are entrusted with ensuring doctors and nurses have safe and reliable equipment.

According to a new pamphlet from the EMSD: 'Being a backstage hero, the EMSD plays a critical but rather invisible role in ensuring all these facilities are there to serve you.' As part of a government initiative, the EMSD has liaised with the public and customers to draw up delivery pledges.

In a booklet entitled Your Safety & Quality of Life - Our Pledge, the EMSD said 96 per cent of its activities last year met its pledged standards.

For example, it had pledged to deal with reports concerning malfunctions of traffic signals, foot bridges and subway lighting within one working day.

It also promised to handle, immediately, oral enquiries on technical issues regarding amusement rides and energy efficiency.

In addition, it created a customer liaison group in May last year to improve quality of services.