Bridge worker's death avoidable, says help group

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 October, 2012, 4:08am

A group that helps industrial accident victims has criticised the government for loose safety standards on construction sites, after a worker building the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge died in an accident.

The tragedy on Thursday could have been avoided if the Labour Department had enforced more stringent safety rules, the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims said.

The family of killed worker Tam Chung-pong, 58, has accepted an offer of an undisclosed payment from contractor China Harbour Engineering.

Tam died after a platform that held him and 20 other workers collapsed during reclamation for an artificial island near Chek Lap Kok airport. A steel panel crushed his ribs and pierced his organs.

The island will house border-crossing facilities for the mammoth bridge project.

Chan Kam Hong, chief executive safety officer for the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, said such accidents might not happen as frequently if the safety bar was raised. "Contractors are free to use second-hand and even third-hand machinery," he said.

"When … someone is killed, contractors face very low fines, making the system ineffective in protecting workers' safety."

One of the 14 injured, Chiu Long, 29, said workers had been asked to pull up the platform by hand because the machinery to move it was out of order.

Chan submitted a letter to the department requesting it impose higher standards on machine quality and take measures to deter contractors from risking safety in favour of speed.

Tam's family said he cared a lot for his family. "We've accepted [the contractor's] offer, but we are still angry, stunned and bereaved," said Tam's niece after a meeting with the contractor's representatives.

In the first half of the year, there were 1,470 industrial accidents, 4.7 per cent more than the same period last year, of which 15 were fatal.