Three firms fined HK$89,000 over death of worker on Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

But victim’s daughter says she is disappointed by the “unacceptably low fine”

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 10:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 10:09pm

Three companies working on construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge were fined a total of HK$89,000 on Friday over the death of a worker in 2014 whose excavator plunged into the sea from a barge.

But the victim’s daughter told a workers’ rights union she was disappointed by the “unacceptably low fine”.

The case centred on an accident which took place at about 10pm on December 12 in waters off an artificial island near Lantau.

Chan Hon-fu, 58, was operating an excavator on board a barge, shovelling soil into dump trucks for sea reclamation.

A dump truck driver testified that he saw the excavator’s crane swing out towards the sea, but that by the time he reached the barge the machine had disappeared.

READ MORE: Builders’ union calls for new safety rules after Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge worker’s death

It took 17 hours to free Chan from the excavator, and he was declared dead at the scene.

The project’s main contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company, and the excavator’s owner, Great Progress Construction, as well as barge owner Hong Kong Hang Tong previously denied responsibility in eight summonses to Tsuen Wan Court.

But all were convicted after special magistrate Andrew Mok Tsz-chung found the main contractor and the barge owner had failed to ensure the excavator was properly anchored, and that they had permitted workers without certificates to handle cargo.

All three companies had a clean criminal record prior to the conviction.

Mok said none of the defendants showed any remorse.

“The offences are serious,” the special magistrate said. “And very unfortunately, a worker lost his life.”

Seven workers have died since the controversial project began construction in 2011.

The most recent death happened in October last year, when a worker was crushed to death by a metal cage.

Two contractors were fined a total of almost HK$550,000 in 2014 over a fatal accident that killed one worker and left 14 others injured.

Prosecutor Paul Yip said offenders were on average fined HK$16,000 per summons, according to calculations made by the Marine Department.

In this case, the main contractor and barge owner were each fined HK$30,000 for carrying out work in dangerous conditions. The remaining summonses carried a fine of between HK$2,000 and HK$6,000 each.

Siu Sin-man, an organiser at the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, said the punishment was too light.

“Contractors won’t try to make construction sites safer because it may actually be more expensive to buy safety equipment than pay the fine,” said Siu.

She stressed that courts should consider imprisonment as a penalty to prevent similar tragedies happening.