Three scaffolding deaths prompt call to workers on safety steps

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2008, 12:00am

Building maintenance workers operating at heights outdoors should pay more attention to safety, the Labour Department said after a year in which it recorded three fatal falls from scaffolding.

The department has not issued final figures for accidents in the last quarter of last year, but figures for the first nine months of the year show six people were killed doing decorating and maintenance work and nine others killed on building sites in that period.

Department deputy chief occupational safety officer Ng Lung-hoi said people hired for short-term building maintenance tasks tended to have low safety awareness.

'These projects may last for only a few days, so contractors and workers pay less attention to safety,' he said, adding that most work of this kind involved repairing external water leaks or replacing windows.

'We have, therefore, allocated more manpower to check on these smaller projects to see if workers have followed safety guidelines when working on scaffolding. About 60 per cent of our resources are devoted to conducting inspections of these decoration and maintenance projects, compared with 20 per cent in the past,' he said.

The Labour Department and the Buildings Department said they conducted snap inspections of work on 18 flats in Tsuen Wan, Sai Wan Ho, Southern District, Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Mong Kok on November 15 and 16. The Labour Department issued 19 suspension notices to contractors and subcontractors, and the Buildings Department issued 15 warning letters to property owners.

More than 800 summonses were issued last year for failure to implement statutory safety measures on construction sites and decoration projects. Some involved failing to observe safety measures while working on scaffolding.

Mr Ng reminded employers, property owners, tenants, shop operators and property management companies to instruct contractors to provide safe facilities for workers.

'They should not think that it is the workers' or the contractors' responsibility only,' he said. 'If anything goes wrong, they might all be held responsible and have to face legal charges.'

Accident rate

There were 2,313 industrial accidents in the construction sector in the first three quarters last year

The number of those that involved decoration and maintenance projects: 1,156