Officials vow action after fatal falls

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 July, 2005, 12:00am

Labour Department chiefs yesterday vowed to step up monitoring of minor projects after two workers fell five floors to their death at a San Po Kong industrial building on Wednesday.

Commissioner for Labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung made the pledge after meeting the relatives of Pang Tung-ming, 23, and Lee Bing-yiu, 24, who died after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed at Lee Wan Industrial Building.

He promised to help the relatives apply for emergency assistance funds and find the employer of the two workers.

Initial investigations found that only one screw, instead of the three recommended by the guidelines, was installed on the metal frames supporting the scaffolding.

Mr Cheung admitted difficulty in monitoring minor projects because they did not require prior notification with the department. But he promised to find ways to ensure workers received all the protection they were entitled to.

'We will do our best to collaborate with unions, urging them to give wider information of the contractors and inform us of the constructions in advance so that we can patrol [the site] to ensure its safety,' he said.

Both Lee and Pang had worked in the construction trade for about five years. Lee lived with his parents, brother and sister in a public housing estate and provided a large proportion of the family income, while Pang lived with his girlfriend in Kwun Tong.

Pang's cousin, Ngai Pan, said: 'He sometimes told me he was tired after work, but never mentioned anything about the safety of his job.'

Mr Ngai said he was satisfied with Mr Cheung's promise but said neither the police nor the government had yet contacted the family or given them help.

'If we had not aroused public awareness through the media, they might not take the initiative to help us. I'm very discontented about this,' he said. 'The employer is very irresponsible. He phoned my cousin's girlfriend about the accident and then disappeared.'

Police later said they had contacted the contractor and would arrange an interview.

Last year there were 3,833 industrial accidents reported in the construction industry. Of these, 447 involved workers falling from heights, resulting in nine deaths.

The Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council, meanwhile, held a protest at the Labour Department's Central headquarters.

'The Labour Department spends at least $300 million a year on promoting occupational safety but the number of fatality cases continues to be serious, which means there are problems with the strategy,' council chairman Lee Kwok-keung said.