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LCQ1: Occupational safety of professional drivers

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):


     The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO) requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees.  Yet, under the existing OSHO, the definition of "workplace" does not include the vehicles operated by professional drivers and the cabs of these vehicles, hence they are not within the scope of protection of OSHO.  Although employers are required, under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO), to take out employees' compensation insurance so that if employees are injured or killed at work, they or their families will be entitled to compensation under ECO, vehicle owners may not take out insurance policies for the professional drivers and some of these drivers are self-employed and thus are not protected by ECO.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) among the traffic accidents in the past five years which involved professional drivers, of the number of cases in which the professional drivers were granted compensation under employees' compensation insurance, and the number of cases in which the professional drivers were not protected by employees' compensation insurance; whether the authorities have assessed if the exclusion of "the seat or position occupied by the driver of a land vehicle located in a public place" from the scope of protection under OSHO is an act of discrimination against the occupational safety needs and rights of professional drivers; whether the authorities will consider conducting a comprehensive review of and a study on amending OSHO; if they will, of the details and the timetable; if not, the justifications and reasons for that;

(b) whether the authorities had, in the past five years, monitored as well as carried out investigation and inspection regarding the occupational safety of the working environment of professional drivers; if they had, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) regarding the prevalence of occupational diseases among professional drivers and the causes of such diseases, whether the authorities have carried out relevant surveys, studies and analyses so as to formulate specific measures and plans for improving the work safety and health of professional drivers; if they have, of the details and the specific work done in the past five years; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO) stipulates that employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure the safety and health at work of their employees. The Ordinance covers most of the workplaces, but excludes land, sea and air transport which are regulated by other legislation such as the Road Traffic Ordinance, the Merchant Shipping Ordinance and the Civil Aviation Ordinance. Hence, the definition of "workplace" in OSHO does not include the driving seat of a professional driver in a vehicle, and an aircraft or vessel located in a public place.

     My reply to Hon Wong Kwok-hing's question is as follows:

(a) The Labour Department does not have breakdown of statistics on employees' compensation cases by work type. Hence, information on whether the professional drivers who were involved in traffic accidents had obtained employees' compensation could not be provided.

     Although OSHO does not cover the driving duties of professional drivers, they are protected by the legislation if they carry out non-driving duties assigned by their employers. Besides, the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO) stipulates that an employer shall be liable to pay compensation to employees who sustain injuries or death in accidents arising out of and in the course of employment (including injuries or death sustained in accidents due to fatigue from work or heat stroke at work) or suffer from prescribed occupational diseases.  ECO is applicable to professional drivers who are employees. Therefore, the existing legislation has not discriminated against professional drivers. In order to further enhance the protection of professional drivers, we shall consult the Transport and Housing Bureau in reviewing the existing occupational safety and health arrangements for professional drivers.

(b) The Labour Department (LD) has been concerned about the occupational safety and health of professional drivers, and conducts targeted inspections and monitoring operations from time to time, including inspecting the hygiene facilities and provision of drinking water at public transport stations, and such duties as loading and unloading of goods and operation of machinery by professional drivers. In summer this year, LD took the initiative to inspect a number of bus termini of a bus company, checking whether the measures implemented by the company to prevent bus drivers from suffering heat stroke were appropriate and sufficient, and making recommendations for improvement in strengthening the preventive measures. In addition, in response to a complaint, LD has recently conducted inspections on some drivers' duty to operate facilities for assisting disabled passengers to get on or off the bus, and requested the employer concerned to make improvements.

(c) LD has been conducting publicity and promotion activities through various channels to raise professional drivers' awareness of occupational safety and health.  This year, LD, in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) and relevant trade unions, visited a number of bus, taxi, public light bus and tram stations to promote occupational safety and health messages and distribute publicity leaflets and souvenirs to professional drivers direct.  LD has broadcast an educational video on mobile advertising media, occupational safety and health tips on the radio after traffic news, and conducted various activities to remind professional drivers of the importance of healthy living.

     In order to learn more about the occupational safety and health conditions of professional drivers, OSHC conducted a questionnaire survey last year to collect information about the lifestyle and health status of a pool of professional drivers, as well as their awareness of and attitudes towards occupational safety and health. We will make reference to the results of the survey in formulating specific measures to improve the occupational safety and health of professional drivers.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:54


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