WORKERS need to take more responsibility for their own safety and cannot continue to rely on punitive action against their employers to enforce safety standards, a top government labour expert has warned.
The comments yesterday by Deputy Chief Factory Inspector Dominic Mak Hung-kae signal an important shift in government policy to make workers responsible for their own welfare.
''The primary responsibility for doing something about the present levels of industrial accidents and ill-health lies with those who create the risks and those who work with them,'' he told a health and safety conference.
''There is convincing evidence to suggest that apathy of both employees and employers is the greatest single contributing factor to accidents and ill-health at work.'' Mr Mak's remarks echoed those of the Governor, Chris Patten, who drew a storm of protest from trade unionists on Saturday when he said it was about time workers realised the duty they had to themselves for industrial safety.
Legislator Tam Yiu-chung reacted angrily, saying it was up to the Government and employers to police safety standards.
But Mr Mak pointed out that with 90,000 work-places and only a handful of inspectors it was impracticable to expect all employers to be targeted. The large number of health and safety laws on the statute book also makes enforcement difficult.
''Our current system still encourages too much reliance on regulation and too little on personal responsibility and self-regulation,'' he explained.