• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 9:08pm
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong police in the hot seat over HK$1 million designer chairs splurge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am

Police workers are sitting comfortably after the force splashed out more than HK$1 million on 240 designer chairs for its 999 reporting centres, it was revealed yesterday.

The Aeron chairs, made by the American office-supply company Herman Miller, were bought a decade ago at an average price of HK$4,300. Questioned about the spending at a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung said the chairs had been chosen to "minimise occupational safety and health risks" for workers who must sit down for hours.

By contrast, staff at the 12 immigration control points, who also sit for long hours, make do with 600 chairs that cost HK$1,000 or less each.

The figures were revealed in response to a Legco question from People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen.

Government spending on chairs has become a hot topic in recent weeks after the Chief Executive's Office was revealed to have shelled out HK$13,699 each for two chairs and spent HK$526,480 in total on chairs for six conference rooms. Raymond Chan raised the question after a Chinese-language newspaper reported that police and air traffic controllers were using hundreds of chairs that cost between HK$8,000 and HK$10,000 each.

Professor Chan told Legco that spending decisions were based on operational needs that varied between departments. He said government procurement decisions should be "properly justified and documented".

However, he gave only an average figure for the cost of the police chairs and did not address the question of how much the air traffic control chairs cost.

"The 999 reporting centres operate round the clock. It is often the case that each duty officer has to operate more than one computer terminal at a time," Professor Chan said. "The chairs must be safe, durable and ergonomically designed so as to minimise occupational safety and health risks that may arise from long hours of work that demand intense concentration, and to maintain efficiency and quality of service."

The Aeron chairs bought by the police are considered a design classic and have a permanent spot in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. The company's website boasts that the chair "becomes a part of the person who uses it".

The police did not respond to requests for the prices of the individual chairs and an explanation of why that model was chosen.


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This article is now closed to comments

Well ergonomically design furniture are important for good work efficiency and occupational health of the user,and they deserve higher cost to be paid. For chair bound office workers, an ergonomically designed chair is part and partial of his tools for carrying out his work efficiently and safely. Have we also calculated the costs of the worker's other tools, here I refer to their dispatch computers system and communication system hardwares etc. To the workers, it is not just a chair, it is one of the most important tools along the entire service delivery chain for delivering the designed level of dispatch service.
Yingnam Fong
15 years ago, the new design office chairs were still uncommon in Hong Kong. It was after the strong recommendations of some authoritative international health care organizations that this functionality-based design chair was accepted as a new norm to ensure the good health of the desk bound workers. All chairs are made up of components obtainable from the open market. But the price varies very differently because of the variances in quality, workmanship, functionality, durability and most importantly the design. There should have no copyright on the overall design. However, the big company can add value to their product by providing the chair with a brand name, attractive outlook, performance, sturdiness and so on in order to attract customers looking for high end office chairs. Like garment, the product has a taste of fashion in addition to its functionality. With regard to the provision of a suitable new design chair to meet the great demand of the 999 operators, the traditional way of acquisition should not be the option. Again, the purchase I think was based on the Force's operational needs and after their market check. The product in this case should not be regarded as just an ordinary general store item. And it is a waste of time to dig out the purchase made over a decade ago.
I have one of these chairs, bought in 2006. They are really comfortable, and they do last a very long time. Mine looks identical to the day I brought it home.
In comparison to IKEA chairs that cost about $1000, they fall apart after 1-2 years, wheels break, padding starts to come out and the fabric tears. There's no way to repair them either. The generic "ergo" chairs that are from China are even worse. They look nice, but are actually quite uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time.
I feel sorry for the immigration officers who have to sit long hours on $1000 chairs.
LOL. The Hong Kong government must be the beacon of sound economics for the region. Ergonomically engineered chairs are good investments, make sure you have equally good desks and tables to match them with. Office injuries are a commonplace occurrence. Better offices mean less strain on medical care in the long run.
Hong Kong is the best.
Eveything here is the best.
We have the best civil servants.
We have the best airport.
We have the best infra-structure.
Serve you right HKers.
What are they complaining about? I think they got that chair very cheap. Just looking at Posh shows prices beyond tripe of what was reported here. I wonder where you would be able to get just one Aeron for less than HK$5000.
Agreed with rpasea. HK$4300 for an Aeron chair is a fair price 10 years ago. HK$8000 to HK$10,000 for an ergonomic chair today is not off the chart. Don't forget we live in the safest city in the world and our policemen deserve at least the very best chairs. Raymond Chan Chi-chuen should make better use of his and the minister's time. SCMP is doing the right thing by reporting this type of incidents so the public can monitor how legco members are making use of their powers.
If we just look at the price, a chair sold at $10,000 is costly to a fair-minded reasonable man. But the point is whether the chair worths $10,000 and the essentiality of using this kind of chair. I am not a user the Aeron chair and never sit on it. I cannot feel how comfortable it is. But I work at office and sit for long hour. Sometimes i will feel my back pain after long hour. So I agree that a nice chair can help provide a comfortable working environment to workers and reduce health risks. What is wrong with having a nice chair for workers sitting long hour? Personally, i think the journalist should at least make a comparison between the function of the Aeron chair and the so-called chairs at bargain price before making an incomplete report.




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