Workers feel the heat as June sets 30-year record

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am


As you sit back in your air-cooled office this morning, the sweat perhaps drying on your back, think of those for whom the hum of an air conditioner is only a dream.

As the city endures one of its hottest summers on record concerns are growing for the workers who turn developers' billion-dollar dreams into reality whatever the weather.

The Observatory recorded a maximum temperature of 34.5 degrees Celsius on June 9, the highest recorded in June since 1980, with its mean temperature for the month 28.6 degrees, 0.7 degrees above the normal figure of 27.9 degrees.

The sweltering conditions have taken their toll, with nine serious heatstroke cases at work reported in May and June. July has so far kept up the heat, with a driver collapsing at the wheel of his non-air-conditioned bus on Tuesday.

At the construction site of the new government building in Tamar, workers say outdoor conditions are more bearable than those inside the half-finished building, with the interior temperatures three to four degrees hotter than exterior ones.

'You have the sun outside, but also the wind,' said a 50-something worker who gave his name only as Mr Tse. 'But inside there is no wind. It's even worse. It's like baking.'

Chow Luen-kiu, chairman of the Construction Industry Employee General Union, agreed.

'It gets hot, but it gets even hotter working in sealed indoor sites,' said Chow, adding that employers need to provide ventilators at indoor sites.

He said he hoped that the government would pass a law soon to prohibit construction work when the weather gets too hot, but admits that it will be difficult to set the limits.

Despite Hong Kong's boast of being 'Asia's world city', there is still no law to protect workers from the dangers of toiling in a furnace.

Meanwhile, guidelines have been drawn up to ensure that construction sites are safe for workers. Employers are required, for example, to provide unlimited drinking water, a shady rest area and fans to keep their workers cool.

Workers at the Tamar site say the heat can be unbearable. No specific times are set aside for rest periods but workers are free to rest whenever they feel uncomfortable, said a woman worker in her 50s.

The government stated at a Legislative Council meeting yesterday that it will keep monitoring the situation by visiting construction sites, and remind employers of their responsibility to ensure work sites are safe.