Call for building workers' register

A NEW registration system should be introduced to tackle the high accident rate in the construction industry, Hongkong Construction Association president Mr Peter Lam Chun-kwong said yesterday.

Mr Lam said such a system would help address problems with the current training methods, which were often disorganised and not taken seriously.

The comments follow the death of two crane operators at the Tsing Ma Bridge site this month.

Mr Lam said workers in the local construction industry, which has been notorious for its high accident rate, lacked the safety consciousness which had been successfully instilled in their counterparts in other developed countries.

The Government or statutory bodies like the Vocational Training Council should administer a registration system, he said.

Workers who completed a training course would have to be registered and those who failed to complete the course would not be allowed to work at construction sites.

At present, training courses are carried out by construction companies when they recruit workers.

Employers have to give every new worker lessons to ensure their knowledge of work safety is sufficient.

Mr Lam said current legislation overlooked the realities of the industry and that workers moved frequently from one site to another site.

''Whenever a worker works in another site, he then has to attend the training course provided by another construction company again,'' he said.

''This is firstly redundant. Furthermore, it makes most workers treat the course merely as a formality and they lack the incentive to be serious about attending the courses.'' He said most workers escaped from the lessons.

Mr Lam was not concerned that a registration system might make it harder for the industry to recruit labourers, saying the industry's image would be boosted in the long run.

''At present, many construction workers are regarded by the public as mostly uneducated [and from the] grassroots. I think they deserve a higher regard.

''If the industry is better recognised, we can attract more capable workers.'' Mr Lam said the association had recommended the proposal to the Government previously, but was turned down because of limited financial resources and manpower.

He also suggested the Government should further centralise teaching materials.

At present, different materials were presented by different construction companies without knowing what essentials should be taught to the workers, he said.

In the long run, Mr Lam said, a standardised course should be offered to all construction workers by the Government.