BUILDING experts seeking jobs as safety officers face a thorough investigation to ensure they are properly qualified, a top safety specialist said.
Labour Department chief factory inspector, Chan Tat-king, said all prospective safety officers must have been on recognised training courses and had at least two years' construction safety experience.
He denied recent claims by some 'so-called' safety officers who said 90 per cent of applications were approved without any checks.
This gave the impression that any construction worker could, with little effort, get a higher paying job as a safety officer.
'This is far from the truth,' Mr Chan said.
There is a legal requirement that people who want to call themselves a safety officer must be registered with the Labour Department.
But before they can be registered they must satisfy the department they have sufficient knowledge about safety issues.
Exhaustive checks with previous employers are made on every candidate.
'People must have attended proper safety courses run by Hong Kong Polytechnic, the Construction Industry Training Authority or another recognised training body overseas. If they have a degree they only need a year's experience. Otherwise they must have two years of practical experience,' Mr Chan said.
Factory inspector, Li Chi-leung, said it was no good for them just to have a construction background.
'They must have a thorough knowledge of health and safety and they must know about safety laws. We insist on face-to-face interviews and ask them to provide solid evidence they have been involved in accident investigations, produced accident reports, attended safety meetings and produced safety audit reports,' Mr Li added.
Mr Chan said the Labour Department was preparing for a surge of applications as a result of new regulations which from June 30 next year insist that any construction site with more than 100 workers must have a full-time safety officer. The present limit is 200.
Several leading contractors, including Hsin Chong, Franki and Tobishima have already advertised and tried to recruit safety officers from Britain.
'There is a general shortage of safety officers largely as a result of the airport-related projects,' commented one construction director.
Firms risk a $200,000 fine if they are found to be in breach of the new law.