Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

Three contractors plead guilty to 27 breaches in fatal industrial accident at Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

  • 2017 incident claimed two lives and injured three, when temporary structure collapsed into sea as workers were dismantling scaffolding
  • Defence urges court to consider that defendants had already taken responsibility and were unlikely to reoffend
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 10:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2019, 2:11am

Three contractors for the world’s longest sea crossing linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau have pleaded guilty to 27 breaches of occupational safety following a fatal accident in 2017.

The West Kowloon Court case centred on an industrial mishap that took place under the south viaduct of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge on March 29 that year, claiming two lives and leading to three injured.

A temporary support structure had collapsed into the sea while three workers were dismantling an attached metal scaffolding for a barge to pass.

The fall killed two workers, Gurung Anel and Onwuka Okomba Onwuka Uka, while the third, Thapa Paul Benedick, suffered multiple injuries. Two other workers on the deck, Iqbal Fasil and Wu Chung-leung, also fractured their legs after a crossbeam connected to the collapsed structure fell on them.

On Wednesday, the project’s three main contractors – Dragages Hong Kong, China Harbour Engineering Company and VSL Hong Kong – pleaded guilty to nine summonses each before Magistrate Leung Siu-ling.

They were accused of using lifting gear exceeding the safe working load and failing to provide and maintain a safe plant and system of work, as well as falling short of providing the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision for safety.

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Prosecutors have withdrawn 21 other summonses due to insufficient evidence.

Ten workers lost their lives during construction of one of the city’s largest infrastructure projects, which started in 2010. At its peak, the construction engaged 1,000 workers and 300 staff members.

An investigation into the present case revealed that the weight of the temporary support structure, at 126.9 tonnes, had exceeded the safe working load of its lifting gears, slings and shackles.

Professor Lawrence Wu from City University said he found that the sling support system suspending the collapsed structure was unsafe.

Another safety expert, Tam Siu-chung, noted that dismantling work should not be done during the dangerous operation of lifting the temporary support structure.

World’s longest sea crossing is finished – but construction came at a price

The court also heard that frontline supervisors and workers were not informed of risk assessment and precautionary measures, or provided with sufficient training.

Defence counsel Nicholas Lai Yiu-kan said in mitigation that all three contractors had voluntarily suspended themselves from tendering in any government projects for 12 months from May 2018, following the Development Bureau’s investigation.

“In giving out any fines, I urge the court to consider that they have already suffered financially,” he said.

Lai also argued that his clients “have very little chance of any reoffending because the project is finished”.

The bridge was completed in August 2018 and opened on October 23.

Sentencing was adjourned to February 1.

Six other defendants, who have pleaded not guilty or have yet to enter plea, will hear a pretrial review on April 15.