LCQ10: Work under inclement weather

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (October 18):
     Employees in certain industries, trades and workplaces (e.g. public transport, public utilities, healthcare services, security, hotels, eateries and places of entertainment) still need to work during the period when a Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No 8 or above or the Black Rainstorm Warning Signal is in force, in order to maintain basic services or cope with contingencies. On the other hand, the Labour Department has compiled the "Code of Practice in times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" to provide guidelines on work arrangements and contingency measures during inclement weather, so as to avoid unnecessary disputes and confusions between employers and employees. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the current number of employees to whom work is still assigned by their employers during inclement weather; if so, of a breakdown by industry; among such employees, of the number of those who have been informed by their employers of the work arrangements and contingency measures during inclement weather, and the number of such employers;

(2) of the number of occupational accidents which occurred during inclement weather in each of the past five years and their resultant casualties, together with a breakdown by cause of accident;

(3) whether it has studied the enactment of legislation to prohibit employers from assigning their employees to perform high-risk duties (e.g. working on outdoor scaffoldings and at sea) during inclement weather, with a view to enhancing the protection for employees; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) of the number of cases in each of the past five years in which the employers, who had been involved in occupational accidents that had occurred during inclement weather, were prosecuted for failure to take out employees' compensation insurance for the employees concerned?

Reply :


     The Government attaches great importance to ensuring the safety of employees at work, including their safety in workplaces as well as on their journey to and from work in times of typhoons or rainstorms. At the same time, we are also aware that should some essential services or industries in the community be disrupted due to manpower issues, it would cause inconvenience to members of the public or hinder the proper functioning of the society. Taking into account the general interests of employers, employees and the community, the Labour Department (LD) is committed to promoting to employers the importance of drawing up prior work arrangements and contingency measures during typhoons and rainstorms through a wide range of publicity channels and promotion. These include, amongst others, publishing the "Code of Practice in times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" (Code of Practice) which seeks to provide advice and practical guidelines on work arrangements in times of typhoons and rainstorms.
     Our reply to Member's question is as follows:
(1) LD does not have the number of employees who need to work in inclement weather and the other related statistics.
(2) As statistics of occupational fatalities or injuries are classified by "Type of Accident" (e.g. fall of person from height) rather than by working condition or work in inclement weather, LD does not have the relevant information on occupational fatalities or injuries of employees owing to work in inclement weather.
(3) The existing occupational safety and health (OSH) legislation does not specifically prohibit work in inclement weather. However, the general duties provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap 509) and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap 59) impose a duty on employers to ensure the safety and health of their employees at work by providing them with safe places of work, safe plant and safe systems of work. Generally speaking, high risk work activities such as work on outdoor scaffolding or at sea should not be undertaken during inclement weather. Employers who fail to comply with the said provisions are liable to a maximum fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for six months.
     The existing OSH legislation has already imposed a duty on employers to safeguard the safety and health of their employees at work. Since the work nature and requirements vary for different job positions, organisations and industries, it is difficult to mandate specific work arrangements through legislation. LD has published the Code of Practice to advise employers to draw up in advance work arrangements and contingency measures during typhoons and rainstorms in consultation with employees. If employers require their employees to work in inclement weather, they have an obligation to maintain a safe place of work for their employees and should ensure that the risks at work are properly controlled.
(4) As mentioned above, LD does not keep statistics with classification of working condition or inclement weather. As such, we are unable to provide the prosecution figures on employers involving in cases where their employees sustained a work injury in time of inclement weather while failing to secure employees' compensation insurance. However, if an employer contravenes the provisions on employees' compensation insurance stipulated by the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (Cap 282), prosecution will certainly be instituted if there is sufficient evidence.

Ends/Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:43