Six contractors for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge fined up to HK$82,000 each for failing to ensure safety in worker’s death
Companies previously denied all 20 summonses arguing they believed they had complied with legal requirements, but judge disagrees
Six Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge contractors were fined up to HK$82,000 (US$10,400) each on Tuesday for failing to ensure the safety of workers in light of an industrial death three years ago.
The West Kowloon Court case centred on an industrial accident that took place on Chek Lap Kok on October 27, 2015, when worker Tsui Kwok-fai, 49, was struck and killed by an oxy-acetylene cage weighing at least 330kg.
The six companies involved had previously denied all 20 summonses, arguing during trial that they honestly believed they had complied with legal requirements on occupational safety.
But deputy magistrate Peter Yu Chun-cheung disagreed.
“The court’s responsibility is to identify the inadequacies in management,” he said.
Ten workers have lost their lives since work started in 2010 on the bridge linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau.
In the present case, the project’s three main contractors – Dragages Hong Kong, China Harbour Engineering Company and VSL Hong Kong – were each fined HK$82,000 after they were respectively found guilty of four summonses.
These summonses accused them of failing to provide and maintain a safe plant and system of work; failing to provide necessary information, instruction, training and supervision for safety at work for a person employed in an industrial undertaking; and failing to develop, implement and maintain a safety management system.
Two subcontractors, Hin Sum Construction Company and Super Engineering (HK), were each fined HK$20,000 upon being found guilty of two summonses involving similar allegations.
Tsui’s employer, Hin Sum Manpower Company, was fined HK$40,000 relating to one summons for failing to ensure the safety and health of an employee.
The court heard crane operator Fan Kam-hung was preparing to unload two oxy-acetylene cages – weighing 330kg and 440kg – from a lorry when he accidentally pressed the remote control around his neck and activated the mechanic arm.
Tsui, who was standing in front of the lorry, was subsequently struck by one of the cages knocked over by the extended crane.
He died in hospital on the same day.
The magistrate observed that lifting operations might appear simple but could involve grave security risks and serious consequences.
He found that the contractors could have conducted task-specific risk assessments, and separate the area for such operations to prevent an uninvolved or distracted worker from accidentally entering.
Yu also noted that Tsui’s employer had completely depended on the main contractors to put in place a safe system and offer training to its workers when it could have introduced its own measures to address any inadequacies.
One example he gave was a system of reward and punishment to ensure that workers are only involved in designated tasks.
“Had these measures been implemented, the court believes [Tsui’s employer] would have known that he was involved in lifting operations without being assigned,” Yu said. “These measures are reasonably practicable.”
The three main contractors each had two similar past convictions, for which they were respectively fined up to HK$23,000.
Their defence counsel, Nicholas Lau Yiu-kan, said in mitigation: “Their record is quite good. This is a technologically advanced and complex project.”