Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

There should be no compromises when it comes to workers’ safety

The recent tragic and fatal accident at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge highlights the need to make sure we learn from accidents and make the best efforts to prevent them

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 4:06am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 4:06am

With thousands of accidents and fatalities in the double digits every year, the construction industry remains one of the most dangerous in Hong Kong. The latest fatal tragedy occurred just on Wednesday at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. A work platform beneath a viaduct suddenly collapsed into the sea, killing two workers and injuring three others.

The victims – a Nepalese and a Nigerian – have brought the death toll on the Hong Kong side of the bridge to 10, and have made it one of the most lethal construction projects in the world. The two were dismantling the metal platform with another worker when it suddenly fell into the sea. They had reportedly attached their safety belts to the platform instead of permanent anchoring structures. The survivor managed to loosen the harness and was rescued.

Workers’ safety being ‘disregarded’ on Hong Kong-Macau bridge sites, watchdog says

While the circumstances of each accident vary, questions are raised when 10 lives have been lost in a single project. In question is not just the safety record of mega infrastructure projects. There were at least 10 fatal occupational accidents in Hong Kong this year before Wednesday’s bridge tragedy. This includes five cases in the construction industry. While the overall industrial accident rate per 1,000 workers has somewhat improved in recent years, there is hardly room for complacency.

The investigation announced by the Highways Department is a good start. However, it would also be good to take a step back and reflect on our quick pace of development.

Workers at Hong Kong bridge site where two died may not have followed safety rules, Labour Department says

Over the past decade, we have launched massive railway and housing projects. Inevitably, they have safety and manpower implications. Tight budgets and schedules mean rules and procedures may not be followed as seriously as they should be.

Hong Kong prides itself on being a showcase of civil engineering marvels. But it would be a shame if that came at the expense of lives and injuries. It is important that all accidents be thoroughly investigated and lessons learned. Under no circumstances should safety be compromised.