Glass falls 40 storeys off hotel, just missing workers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2012, 12:00am


Calls for new safety rules following a huge blaze at a luxury hotel in North Point gained impetus yesterday as three people narrowly avoided injury after a shard of glass fell more than 40 storeys from the building.

Hundreds of guests had to be evacuated from the burning Harbour Grand Hotel in the early hours of Saturday, although no one was injured.

The source of the fire has been traced to a rooftop LED display unit, used for advertising and displaying romantic messages from guests. But the Fire Services Department is still probing the exact cause.

Three construction workers on a site next to the hotel avoided injury when the piece of glass plunged to the ground at 11.15am yesterday.

The hotel said the glass was not from the screen itself but from nearby, but people at the scene said the glass fell from the LED display.

Three streets close to the hotel in Oil Street have been cordoned off, and the hotel said it would install safety nets and scaffolding to stop falling glass shards.

The blaze has sparked debate about the regulation of outdoor LED signs, which has gained popularity in the past three to five years.

The Electricity Ordinance regulates electricity supply to such signs but not that to their screens, while the Buildings Department monitors their structural safety.

Electrical engineer Peter Wong Yiu-sun, chairman of the Engineers Registration Board, said it was time for the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to regulate the quality of LED displays and their components.

'Even a television is now regulated by law. An LED display, which involves pedestrians' safety, should also be regulated,' Wong said. 'The law now only covers electricity supply and structure, which is not enough.'

Wong said the quality of LED displays is variable, as it is a relatively new technology. For instance, cheaper versions produced on the mainland are of inferior quality.

He also said the temperatures of LED display units could exceed 100 degrees Celsius, and could easily catch fire if the heat venting capability is poor.

According to the Buildings Department's guidelines on the erection and maintenance of advertising signs, the signs should be made of fire-resistant materials and a fireman's switch should be installed nearby. But Wong says the guidelines are insufficient.

James To Kun-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said it was better to make the Fire Services Department responsible for the approval of the installation of LED displays that exceed a certain size and electricity usage.

But Mak Siu-tong, chairman of Convey Advertising, said there was no need for new rules as the hotel blaze was an exception.