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LCQ7: Fire resisting cables installed in public housing estates
     Following is a question by the Hon Wilson Or and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (May 10):
     It has been reported that a media organisation collected from the On Tat Estate in Kwun Tong, which was completed last year, four samples of fire resistant electricity cables used in fire service installations, and sent these samples to an accredited laboratory in the Netherlands for testing.  The test result showed that two of the samples had failed to meet the international standard, i.e. failing to maintain a three-hour continuous supply of electricity under the specified high temperature of 950 degrees Celsius, and one of the samples even stopped supplying electricity after 26 minutes into testing.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current standards adopted in Hong Kong for fire resistant electricity cables to be used in fire service installations;
(2) how the Housing Department, when it procured fire resistant electricity cables for the On Tat Estate, conducted tests on that batch of cables to ascertain if such cables met the relevant standards; and
(3) given that apart from the aforesaid problem of substandard fire resistant electricity cables, there was another incident in 2015 in which non-compliant soldering materials had been used in the plumbing systems of 11 public housing estates resulting in the drinking water samples taken from such estates being found to have a lead content exceeding the provisional guideline value set by the World Health Organization, how the authorities will strengthen their monitoring of materials used in public housing estates, including whether they will step up efforts in conducting sampling tests?
     Having consolidated input from the Security Bureau and Fire Services Department (FSD), I set out below my reply to various parts of the question raised by Hon Wilson Or.
     (1) and (2) All fire service installations and equipment (FSIs) shall comply with the "Code of Practice for Minimum Fire Service Installations and Equipment" issued by FSD and the international standards and requirements as specified in the relevant FSD Circular Letters.  As for fire resisting cables (FRC) used in FSIs (such as fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems), they shall generally meet the British Standard BS6387 – "Test method for resistance to fire of cables required to maintain circuit integrity under fire conditions", i.e. such cables should be able to maintain the circuit integrity and signal transmission for a specified period of time under high temperature, water spray and mechanical shock.  Registered FSI contractors must adopt fire resisting cables which meet the aforementioned international standards and requirements for the FSIs to pass FSD's acceptance inspections.
     Regarding the case of On Tat Estate, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) has required the registered FSI contractors to submit valid test reports and certificates issued by accredited laboratories in accordance with the aforesaid international standards and requirements when purchasing the necessary FSIs, to ensure that the FRC adopted in the relevant FSIs have obtained approval from the product certification bodies.  Furthermore, in accordance with the established procedures, HA has reviewed the relevant certificates and markings on the FRC at different stages of construction to ensure that all FRC installed comply with the international standards and requirements as stipulated by FSD.
     HA also conducted a functional testing of the fire services system in On Tat Estate under the observation of FSD on April 27 to verify the fail-safe design of the FRC in the signalling circuitry of the fire services system.  The test results indicate that the fire services system operates normally, including that if the FRC is damaged in fire or for other reasons, the fire services system can trigger warning signal or cause the fire services equipment such as fire services pump and standby-by generator to be uninterrupted as required under the relevant circumstances.
     (3) HA has all along been attaching great importance to the quality management and monitoring of building materials.  Since the "excess-lead-in-water" incident, HA has further enhanced its risk identification mechanism for building materials.  In this connection, we have reported the latest developments to the Legislative Council Panel on Housing in December 2016 and March 2017.
     In gist, HA has strictly implemented various applicable quality control procedures and measures at different stages of the construction process of building contracts, including the submission and approval of building materials, as well as their purchasing, delivery, storage and installation.  These control measures include sampling check of test certificates, supplier’s invoices, records of delivery and storage, as well as quality and standards of in-process materials and installations, etc. to ensure that all building construction materials used in public housing estates, including FRC, are in compliance with the material specifications and relevant statutory requirements.
     Since the "excess-lead-in-water" incident, HA completed a risk assessment of about 2 300 building materials (including FRC) in December 2016 in order to enhance HA's quality assurance mechanism.  In accordance with the international standard ISO 31000 principles, HA identified the risk level of building materials and grouped them into categories according to the risk level.  After completing the risk assessment of building materials, HA has evaluated the risk assessment results and developed corresponding risk treatment measures based on the present known risk levels.  These risk treatment measures will be implemented in phases with priority based on the degree of impact of the relevant materials on construction quality.  The first batch of risk treatment or enhancement measures was rolled out in January 2017.  Major risk treatment measures for all materials will be rolled out in the third quarter of 2017 for every works project.  
     The proposed risk treatment measures will be applied to the five construction work stages of HA's building contracts, namely, "Sample Submission", "Purchasing", "Delivery", "Storage Control" and "Use (Installation)", to ensure that effective control measures are in place for every stage.  Such measures include increasing the number of materials for verification checks at delivery stage, the frequency of sampling test, the number of times of inspection during installation and adding the requirements on random checking of materials at storage areas.
     HA will continue to co-operate with relevant stakeholders and experts, and improve the quality control systems regularly to check and monitor whether the materials comply with the specifications, with a view to maintaining and improving the effectiveness of the system.
Ends/Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:01
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