A CALL has been made for an overhaul of typhoon warnings to give employers, workers and public transport more flexibility to cope with the disruption caused by the No 8 signal, which yesterday lost the territory an estimated $1.2 billion. Those living close to work should be allowed to go in if a safe and direct route was available, said Institute of Personnel Management council member Patrick Maule. A system of detailed warnings should be introduced which would let companies decide which workers should leave first, such as those living further away, he said. 'I think there's an opportunity for a little more productivity by making it more situational,' said Mr Maule, the human resources director of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. 'If Hong Kong sets its mind to it, it could come up with a formula.' He said the warning system, which was fine in principle but needed more work on detail, dated back to the times when there were greater hazards in Hong Kong. MTR deputy operations director Roger Kynaston said the No 8 signal had been previously used to provide a warning for people using ferries to get home. The situation had changed with the introduction of road tunnels and the MTR. The gradual release system, letting workers leave for home up to two hours before the No 8 signal was raised, was working quite well, he said. But an awareness campaign particularly aimed at small businesses was needed at the start of each typhoon season, said Mr Kynaston, who is also chairman of the transport services committee of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. The Royal Observatory hoisted the No 8 signal at about 5 am, which meant employees - except for those in essential and special industries such as police, transport, hotels and hospitals - did not report for work. The early-morning alert yesterday aroused some anger after the meteorology service indicated on Monday night that a stronger signal than the No 3, which was already raised, would not be needed. Complaints had been received about the changed forecast, said a Royal Observatory spokesman. The No 8 signal was downgraded at 11.30 am, requiring employees to start work.