Tighter control on site safety
By KEITH WALLIS
TOUGHER powers enabling factory inspectors to shut down construction sites are being proposed to improve Hong Kong's industrial safety record.
The Labour Department's chief factories inspector Chan Tak-king said: ''We are considering whether to extend the power of the Commissioner of Labour to issue prohibition notices to construction sites that expose workers to unacceptably high risks.'' Under current legislation factory inspectors have to apply for a court order if they want to shut down a building site.
Among other measures being considered are amendments to site safety legislation to prevent under-18s from working on building sites, tighter control on the operation of gondolas and harsher restrictions on the use of asbestos.
These are in addition to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department's plans to strengthen control over builder's hoists and working platforms and a ban on hand-dug caissons by the Building Department.
Mr Chan revealed that out of the 46,797 industrial accidents last year, 16,573 were in construction. This represents an 11 per cent drop compared with 1992.
Of the 92 people who died in industrial accidents, 80 were in construction - nearly double the 48 fatalities in 1992.
As a result, construction site safety is still a high priority, especially as the 17,868 accidents in manufacturing led to only 10 deaths. Overall there were 2,925 convictions for safety violations last year.
Mr Chan is hoping to increase convictions this year. Two weeks ago the department set up a construction site safety taskforce of two three-man teams to check Hong Kong sites.
The teams will tackle what the department has dubbed the ''Big Five'' causes of accidents in the construction industry.
These are failure to provide fencing or guardrails around lift shafts or other openings; lack of proper protective equipment; failure to provide suitable scaffolding or working platforms; failure to maintain hoists in a safe working condition; and lack of protection for dangerous machinery.
A similar hit-list has been compiled for manufacturing industries to include failure to maintain proper escape routes; lack of suitable exit doors; and precautions for the safe use of dangerous materials.
Meanwhile, the Works Branch is holding talks with a British safety specialist on the training of up to 1,000 Government officials in the basics of construction site safety.
Brooklands Environmental Safety Training is due to begin a training assignment at a cost of about $5 million in June. The firm will also train about 12 people to a higher standard who will then become departmental safety advisers.