Finding Hong Kong’s unexploded bombs is a job for professionals

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 10:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 10:48pm

As a frequent visitor to Hong Kong and a former British army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer, I have been following the recent activities of the brave and dedicated men of the Hong Kong Police EOD Bureau with great interest.

However, your writer, Niall Fraser, is quite right in asking a question regarding the reported offer of police training for MTR construction workers, from senior bomb disposal officer Tony Chow Shek-kin: “Isn’t such training obligatory in a major, publicly funded corporation whose very bread and butter lies in the dark underworld of a city sitting atop a veritable minefield of ticking time bombs?”

Bombs over Hong Kong

The answer is yes and no. Yes, such training is necessary and obligatory under Hong Kong’s health and safety legislation. And no, it isn’t the job of the police to give that training. In fact, in doing so, the police may open themselves up to some fairly onerous liability issues. Furthermore, giving limited training to on-site workers on searching for bombs is an admission that there may be bombs on site and could very well open up the employer/contractor to potentially serious legal liabilities, unless those workers are properly trained in all aspects of the search for – and dangers of – unexploded ordnance, together with appropriate equipment and specialist insurance.

The correct way of dealing with the risk of unexploded ordnance on building sites is covered in many post-war cities across the globe. The way these matters are sensibly dealt with in other large conurbations is to engage a firm of professional consultants to undertake technical screening processes over suspect areas.

Watch: Hong Kong police disarm wartime bomb

And, let’s face it, many areas of Hong Kong are suspect for the existence of unexploded ordnance, and this has been the case since the second world war.

I find it very difficult to believe that there is no such organisation in Hong Kong, and I am not talking about one of the myriad security companies that exist, which can produce someone who once served in an army somewhere and then equip him or her with a hastily procured metal detector. I found one professional organisation for conducting unexploded ordnance consultancy in Hong Kong within two minutes by using the Google search engine; I’m sure that the bosses at MTR can do the same.

Richard Montgomery, Kent, UK