Not enough protection on Hong Kong building sites from unexploded bombs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 10:25pm

Once again, an item of wartime unexploded ordnance (UXO) was discovered on a Hong Kong construction site (“Hong Kong workers and residents evacuated after discovery of wartime bomb”, January 23).

I noted from one report workers said that they were not scared because they had confidence in the Hong Kong police Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau.

While I would share their confidence in the courage and expertise of the police bomb technicians, construction workers, the Hong Kong public and the government entirely miss the point that – on a number of occasions around the world each day – many victims of UXO do not get the opportunity to experience fear or lack thereof, because the UXO with which they came into contact detonated immediately and without warning, leaving only death, injury and destruction in its wake.

The fairly regular discovery of UXO on Hong Kong construction sites demonstrates that there is a clear and present risk to construction workers. Therefore, could someone from the construction industry and/or government please explain why this risk is not managed and remediated from the outset in the same way that toxic, carcinogenic and other environmental risks are managed before workers are forced into contact with them?

The Labour Department’s Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Chapter 59) clearly states that workers are to be protected from any risks that are known to exist – so why not the risk of UXO?

Finally, a question for the Hong Kong insurance industry: would those of you who insure Hong Kong construction companies and their projects care to explain whether or not your insurance policies provide complete cover for the appalling consequences of a high-order detonation from military ordnance that suddenly functions as designed on a construction site in one of the most heavily built-up areas in the world?

Mark Ranson, Sai Kung