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SLW visits Express Rail Link construction site (with photos)

     The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, visited a construction site of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link in Lai Chi Kok this afternoon (September 30) to see for himself the occupational safety measures implemented in the mega infrastructure project as well as the efforts made by the Administration to improve occupational safety and health for construction workers.

     Accompanied by the Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Occupational Safety and Health), Mr David Leung; the Project Manager - Express Rail Link Tunnels (South) of Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited, Mr Bill Clowes; and the Project Director of the Contract, Mr Alain Hervio; Mr Cheung received a detailed briefing from the contractor on the various safety measures implemented at the site. Mr Cheung paid special attention to the operation of the tunnel boring machine, the safety guidelines and the working environment for those operating in confined spaces and using large-scale machines.

     "With the commencement of a number of large-scale infrastructure projects in recent years, together with the expected vibrant development of the construction industry in the coming few years, an increasing number of workers will join the industry. The number of construction workers has recorded a 53 per cent increase, from 51 000 in 2009 to around 77 800 in the first quarter of 2013, and many of them are greenhorns," Mr Cheung said.

     Mr Cheung was very concerned about new workers' awareness of site safety, particularly ethnic minority workers. He learned that the Labour Department had stepped up publicity and education targeting minority groups by producing easy-to-understand information leaflets with more pictorial illustrations. The Department also co-operated with labour unions and employers' associations to conduct site visits and organise seminars to promote awareness of site safety, in particular the occupational health and safety of working in tunnels.

     Mr Cheung also expressed concern about the occurrence of a number of recent fatal construction site accidents. He stressed that while employers should enhance risk management, employees should also take appropriate safety measures to prevent work accidents. Twelve fatal accidents in the construction sector occurred up to mid-September this year, comparable to the figure of the corresponding period last year. Six of these cases involved falling from height.

     "The Labour Department has written to all site contractors urging them to attach importance to site safety. Apart from pointing out the risk of working at height, the Department has asked contractors to pay special attention towards strengthening safety management in the areas of tunnel work, operation of large-scale machines and the design of work environment, and so on. They are reminded to carry out effective improvement measures to enhance site safety too. The Department will also step up inspections and enforcement actions on high-risk activities in construction sites. Immediate actions, including prosecutions or issuance of suspension notices, will be taken out against unlawful acts without prior warning," Mr Cheung said.

     With regard to construction safety and health, the Labour Department took out 1 558 prosecution cases, and issued a total of 1 000 suspension notices/improvement notices during the period from January to August this year.

     During today's visit, Mr Cheung inspected the underground work environment by going down to the bottom of the launching shaft of a 34-metre-deep tunnel. He impressed upon both the contractors and workers that occupational health and safety should be a shared responsibility between them.

Ends/Monday, September 30, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:34


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