LCQ4: Occupational safety of operators of tail lifts

     Following is a question by the Hon Poon Siu-ping and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):


     The Labour Department (LD) published in 2013 the Guidance Notes on Prevention of Trapping Hazards of Tail Lifts (Notes) for reference by members of the freight transport sector. However, some members of the sector have pointed out that a number of industrial accidents involving the operation of tail lifts occurred in the past six years, resulting in the death of four workers and a number of injuries. They therefore consider that the Government cannot truly safeguard the occupational safety of operators of tail lifts by relying solely on the Notes, which have no legal effect. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as LD indicated in June last year that it would launch special law enforcement actions in respect of safe operation of tail lifts, of the details and the number of such actions taken so far, the number of cases in which the safety requirements have been breached, and the follow-up actions taken by the authorities in respect of such non-compliant cases;

(2) whether it has conducted any survey to find out if the tail lifts currently fitted to goods vehicles are in compliance with the relevant requirements in the Notes; if it has, of the outcome; of the current number of government vehicles not in compliance with such requirements, and whether the Government has plans to replace such vehicles to ensure the occupational safety of the employees concerned; and

(3) whether it will consider requiring operators of tail lifts to attend courses on safe use of tail lifts offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Council, so as to raise their safety awareness, thereby avoiding accidents involving the operation of tail lifts?



     My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Poon Siu-ping is as follows:

(1) Labour Department (LD) has all along been very concerned about the occupational safety of tail lift operation. Apart from regular enforcement inspection, LD also carries out special enforcement operations targeting the logistics and related industries. These operations cover the safe operation of tail lifts. In the past three years (i.e. 2014 to 2016), LD launched five special enforcement operations to the afore-mentioned industries, and three prosecutions for unsafe tail lift operation were taken out. The duty holders concerned were convicted and fined by the court. Besides, LD issued warnings and improvement notices to duty holders involved in unsafe tail lift operation, and followed up with these duty holders to ensure that prompt remedial actions are taken. LD does not keep statistics on the concerned warnings and improvement notices issued.

(2) Last year, LD conducted a survey on the compliance of goods vehicles with tail lifts with the Guidance Notes on Prevention of Trapping Hazard of Tail Lifts (the GN). Over 1 000 goods vehicles were sampled for the study and the findings revealed that only about 5% of the goods vehicles were installed with the two-hand control device as required in the GN. This compliance rate was far from satisfactory. As a matter of fact, after the issuance of the revised GN in 2015, LD has been maintaining close contact with the industry. In view of the large number of goods vehicles fitted with tail lifts in Hong Kong, concerned trade associations, workers' unions and some Legislative Councillors appealed to LD to allow sufficient time for the industry to retrofit their goods vehicles in accordance with the GN and to take this into account in taking enforcement actions. LD is considering these views and will continue to liaise with the industry with a view to reaching a consensus with the industry as soon as possible.

     Nevertheless, I must emphasize that LD earnestly hope that the industry will install the concerned devices in reasonably practicable circumstances as soon as possible in order to protect the safety of tail lift operators. Before completion of the retrofitting, the industry must develop and implement in a rigorous manner a safe system of work in accordance with the requirements as stipulated in the GN. The safe system of work shall include posting of warning notices conspicuously on the goods vehicles and taking measures to prevent any person from approaching the closing nip between the tail lift and the rear part of the goods vehicles so as to ensure the safety of the operators and other persons.

     For the goods vehicles owned by the Government, 21 newly-purchased goods vehicles with tail lifts are fitted with safety devices in accordance with the GN. Arrangement is also being made to retrofit about 280 existing government goods vehicles to meet the safety requirements in accordance with the GN.

(3) The several fatal accidents involving tail lift were attributed to the absence of necessary safety devices. This underlined the fact that potential hazards of tail lift operation could not be completely eliminated by relying solely on personal alertness and vigilance. Installation of safety devices as required in the GN can prevent tail lift accidents caused by human negligence. In order to better equip the industry with the technique required to install the safety devices, the Hong Kong Productivity Council is providing relevant technical support and consultancy services to the industry.

     Meanwhile, LD agrees that enhancing the safety awareness of workers is equally important.  In this regard, LD has been maintaining close contact with relevant workers' unions and trade associations and conveying through these organisations the relevant safety messages to their frontline workers. Since 2013, LD has organised a number of seminars about safe tail lift operation for the industry and invited trade associations, workers' unions and tail lift suppliers/contractors to join.

     LD has also issued "Work Safety Alerts" to alert the industry to the occurrence of fatal accidents and to remind them to take corresponding safety measures to prevent recurrence of such accidents. LD, in collaboration with Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC), produced a promotional video on the safety of tail lift operation in 2016. In addition to uploading the video to the webpage of LD and OSHC, LD has broadcasted the video through public platforms such as public transport and government locations equipped with broadcasting facilities. LD also produced relevant safety posters and stickers, and disseminated them to the industry through trade associations and workers' unions.

     At this stage, LD has no plan to mandate tail lift operators to attend training courses on safe operation of tail lifts. LD will continue to promote the safety awareness of tail lift operators through various publicity, promotion and education initiatives.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:29