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SLW inspects Express Rail Link construction site work safety (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 West Kowloon Terminus this afternoon (August 7) to see the occupational safety and health (OSH) measures implemented in large-scale infrastructure projects.

     Accompanied by the Acting Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Occupational Safety and Health), Mr Wu Wai-hung, and the Project Manager - Technical Support, Mr Mark Lomas, and the Head of Project Safety, Mr Steve Howarth, of the MTR Corporation Limited, Mr Cheung received a briefing from the contractor on the various OSH measures being implemented on-site. Mr Cheung paid special attention to the work safety of work at height, excavation work and operation of large-scale machinery.

     "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 increased from over 50 000 in 2010 to over 90 000 in the first quarter of 2015, and many of them are greenhorns. This poses continuous challenges to the occupational safety in the construction industry," Mr Cheung said.

     He added, "With regard to OSH of the major works projects, the Labour Department (LD), through stepping up liaison with the project proponents including government works departments, urges the contractors concerned to enhance their site safety management systems through, for example, increasing the participation of professional resident site staff in monitoring work safety and enhancing safety audits for major works projects so as to eliminate potential work hazards. To curb systemic safety risks at source more effectively, the LD will continue to urge contractors and site management personnel to incorporate, in a timely manner, safety elements in the work method statements and design during the project design, tendering and preparatory stages as well as the construction phase."
     Mr Cheung was particularly concerned about the awareness of site safety of new workers and ethnic minority workers. He said that the LD has stepped up publicity and education targeting these workers by producing easy-to-understand information leaflets with more pictorial illustrations. The LD has also co-operated with labour unions and trade associations to conduct site visits and organise seminars to promote their safety awareness with a view to minimising the occurrence of work injuries.

     Mr Cheung also expressed concern about a number of recent fatal construction accidents. He stressed that while employers should enhance risk management, employees should also follow all safety measures to prevent work accidents. There were nine fatal accidents in the construction sector up to the end of July this year, down by 31 per cent when compared with 13 in the same period of last year. Four of these cases involved falling from height, and two involved electrocution.

     "The LD has recently written to all contractors, urging them to attach importance to site safety and the health of workers, including stepping up preventive measures to ensure compliance with the safety legislation regarding work at height and electrical work, for eliminating work-related hazards and to remove or mitigate the risk of heat stroke on construction sites," Mr Cheung said.

     The LD has launched special enforcement operations targeting high-risk processes such as work at height, lifting operations, electrical work and marine construction works. The LD will take immediate enforcement action without prior warning upon discovery of breaches of safety legislation. During the special enforcement operations in 2014, the LD issued a total of 500 suspension notices and over 700 improvement notices, up by about 44 per cent and 21 per cent respectively over the figures for 2013. Prosecutions taken were up by 14 per cent to over 740.

     During today's visit, Mr Cheung paid special attention to the precautionary measures taken by the contractor to prevent heat stroke at work, including provision of cool potable water, erection of sunshades, provision of shower facilities and use of ventilation and cooling devices such as blowers and cooling fans with atomised water spray. He was also very concerned about the rest break arrangements for workers, and impressed upon both contractor and workers that OSH, including arranging appropriate rest breaks, should be a shared responsibility between them. The LD has published the "Guide on Rest Breaks" to remind employers of making rest break arrangements for workers, including arranging appropriate rest breaks for employees who have worked continuously for a lengthy period of time.

Ends/Friday, August 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:33


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