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LCQ4: Fire Service Installations and Equipment

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (October 29):


     According to the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations, the owner of any fire service installation or equipment (FSI/E) shall have such installation or equipment inspected by a registered fire service installation contractor (contractor) at least once in every 12 months, and the contractor shall within 14 days after completion of the inspection forward a copy of the inspection certificate to the Fire Services Department, which will conduct random checks on the certificates.  It has been reported that in a fire which broke out at a building in Tin Yiu Estate, Tin Shui Wai, the firemen found the water pressure in the fire-fighting system of that building to be inadequate, and they therefore had to lay and connect hoses up to the building from a street hydrant 700 metres away before they could battle the blaze.  However, the Housing Department stated that the fire-fighting system concerned had passed an inspection just a few months ago.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of cases in the past three years in which FSI/E malfunctioned during a fire; whether the authorities conducted an investigation into each of these cases and made public the investigation outcome, and whether they have penalized or prosecuted any non-compliant contractor or property owner; whether they will review if the relevant legislation still suits the present circumstances, if the existing regulatory regime is effective and if the methodology for inspecting FSI/E needs to be improved;

(2) of the methodology currently adopted by the authorities for conducting random checks on FSI/E inspection certificates and the percentage of such certificates checked; how the authorities will follow up the problems revealed by the random checks; whether they will consider increasing manpower to step up the random checks, and tightening up the demerit point system currently applied to contractors, with a view to strengthening regulatory efforts; and

(3) as it has been reported that in an attempt to boost the chance of success in their bids for FSI/E maintenance contracts, some contractors have submitted bids with an extremely low price of one dollar for inspection work, and this situation has led to worries that they will carry out the inspection work in a sloppy manner, whether the authorities will review the existing regime of FSI/E being inspected by contractors, and devise improvement methods; if so, of the details?



     Under the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations (Cap 95B), the owner of fire service installations and/or equipment (hereafter as "FSI") shall keep such FSI in efficient working order at all times, and shall have such FSI inspected by a registered fire service installation contractor (hereafter as "registered contractor") at least once every 12 months. Upon completion of the maintenance, repair or inspection works, the registered contractor shall issue to the FSI owner or the person commissioning the registered contractor a certificate and forward a copy to the Fire Services Department (FSD).  The inspection results, i.e. whether or not the FSI is in efficient working order, shall be stated in the certificate. FSD officers will conduct random checks on FSIs in buildings and premises. If problems are found in the FSIs or if false information is found in the certificate, FSD will consider, in the light of the circumstances and evidence of the case, taking prosecution action or other follow-up actions against the FSI owner and/or the registered contractor to ensure the fire safety of the buildings and premises concerned.

     The Administration's reply to various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) FSD will investigate into all suspected cases of FSI malfunctioning found during a fire. If the case is confirmed, FSD will take prosecution against the FSI owner, or issue a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice (FHAN) to require the repair of the FSI concerned within a specified period. On the other hand, if the investigation finds that the fault rests with the registered contractor, FSD will consider taking prosecution or disciplinary action against the registered contractor concerned.

     From January 2012 to end-September 2014, there were a total of 80 cases of suspected FSI malfunctioning in buildings during fire cases.  Upon investigation by FSD, sufficient evidence was found in four cases for taking prosecution action against the owners, for instance the owner concerned failed to engage registered contractors to carry out an annual inspection. In these four cases, the owners concerned were fined $8,000 to $30,000 by the court. During the same period, FSD did not take prosecution action against registered contractors for any suspected FSI malfunctioning in a building during a fire.

     As regards the standards for inspecting and testing FSIs, FSD has drawn up the "Code of Practice for Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Installations and Equipment" (the Code) for compliance by registered contractors. FSD will from time to time review and revise the Code to ensure that the guidelines are in line with the latest standards required by the department.  FSD also disseminates the latest information on FSIs to registered contractors by means of circular letters and talks.  The Administration considers that the existing legislations and mode of monitoring can effectively ensure the fire safety of buildings and monitor the performance of registered contractors.

(2) To effectively monitor the conditions of FSIs in buildings and premises, as well as to ensure that the works conducted by registered contractors comply with FSD's requirements, the Fire Service Installations Task Force (Task Force) of FSD is the dedicated team for handling FSI issues and complaints. Upon receipt of a certificate of Fire Service Installations and Equipment "with defective items", the Task Force will inspect the building in question in accordance with a risk-based approach.  For those certificates of Fire Service Installations and Equipment "with no defective item", FSD will randomly select some of those for inspection by means of computer balloting, and the sampling rate is around 5%. In case a problem is found in the FSI, FSD will issue a FHAN, requiring the owner concerned to rectify the problem. In addition to the Task Force, fire station personnel of each operational Fire Command also conduct random checks on other certificates "with no defective item". FSD considers that the existing manpower is sufficient to cope with the work in this respect.

     Fire Services officers will take follow-up action if they find problems with the reports submitted by registered contractors during the inspection. For minor irregularities, FSD will record "demerit points" against such contractors through the "Demerit Point System for Registered Fire Service Installations Contractors".  Officers of the Task Force will also step up inspection on the FSIs handled by contractors recorded with demerit points.

     For major irregularities, FSD may take prosecution action against the registered contractor concerned under Section 9 of the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations (Cap 95B).  The maximum fine is $50,000 upon conviction.  Moreover, FSD may also consider referring the registered contractor in question to the disciplinary board for disciplinary inquiry under Section 10 of the Fire Service (Installation Contractors) Regulations (Cap 95A).  The maximum penalty is the permanent removal of the concerned registered contractor from the register.

     From January 2012 to end-September 2014, FSD recorded demerit points against 14 registered contractors.  There were 11 prosecution cases against registered contractors with fines between $1,000 and $15,000.  In addition, 13 registered contractors were reprimanded by the disciplinary board, and there were six cases involving the registered contractors being removed from the register for 7 - 14 days.

     On the whole, the current measures are able to monitor the performance of the registered contractors effectively and punish those responsible for irregularities.

(3) The tender price put up by a registered contractor is a business undertaking between the contractor and the engaging party. The engaging parties should take into account the track records of a contractor in addition to the price before engaging a contractor. FSD will also refer cases of non-compliance by registered contractors to the disciplinary board for disciplinary inquiry, and the outcome will be published in the Gazette and FSD's website for public information.

     In addition, FSD has regular meetings with the Association of Registered Fire Service Installation Contractors of Hong Kong Ltd and various stakeholders of the fire engineering industry to discuss issues relating to FSI standards, inspection, testing and maintenance. FSD will also continue to implement the monitoring mechanism mentioned above to ensure that the work of the registered contractors is in compliance with the standards for the purposes of safe and normal functioning of FSIs in buildings.

Ends/Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:19


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