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LCQ12: Occupational safety and health of professional drivers
     Following is a question by the Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (January 17):


     The Occupational Safety and Health Council conducted in 2010 a questionnaire survey, the results of which revealing that quite a large number of professional drivers had developed unhealthy living and eating habits due to the constraints arising from job nature and environmental factors. Moreover, quite a number of professional drivers indicated that they had been diagnosed as having health problems such as musculoskeletal discomforts, hypertension, gastrointestinal or digestive diseases and nerve pain. In addition, the results of a survey published by a community group in December last year showed that professional drivers had long working hours and heavy work pressure and their risk of suffering stroke was more than two times higher than that of the general public. Regarding the occupational safety and health (OSH) of professional drivers, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the number of cases in the past three years in which professional drivers were diagnosed as suffering from work-related diseases, together with a breakdown by type of disease and category of the vehicles they drove;

(2) whether the authorities conducted in-depth studies and surveys in the past three years on the OSH issues of professional drivers; if so, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will expeditiously conduct such studies and surveys;

(3) whether the authorities have reviewed the effectiveness of the existing work to publicise messages on OSH of professional drivers; if so, of the details; and

(4) whether the authorities will consider specifying the aforesaid diseases suffered by professional drivers as compensable occupational diseases under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (Cap. 282), and setting up a central occupational insurance compensation fund to be managed by a statutory body, with a view to processing expeditiously claims filed by professional drivers; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) The number of professional drivers who sought consultation at occupational health clinics of the Labour Department (LD) and were diagnosed with diseases caused by/related to work in the past three years, with breakdowns by type of diseases and category of vehicles they drove, is set out in the following tables:
Category of vehicles Type of diseases* No. of persons
2015 2016 2017
Locomotive engine drivers and related workers Injury 0 0 2
  Musculoskeletal diseases 0 2 0
  • Neck and back
0 0 0
  • Upper limb
0 1 0
  • Lower limb
0 1 0
  Others 1 0 0
Car, van and motorcycle drivers Injury 1 1 1
  Musculoskeletal diseases 24 21 15
  • Neck and back
14 3 4
  • Upper limb
6 11 8
  • Lower limb
4 7 3
  Others 0 0 1
Heavy truck and bus drivers Injury 3 3 4
  Musculoskeletal diseases 24 15 16
  • Neck and back
11 6 8
  • Upper limb
11 5 5
  • Lower limb
2 4 3
  Others 0 1 0
Total   53 43 39
*Injury cases are caused by work. Other cases are related to work.

(2) and (3) LD keeps track of the occupational safety and health (OSH) risk of different industries (includes professional drivers) through different means, including surprise inspections, accident statistics and investigations, complaint handling, consultations at LD's occupational health clinics, meetings and contacts with the industries (say through publicity and promotional activities), and surveys conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC), etc. to ensure that our enforcement, promotion and education strategy evolves with the time, and addresses the latest OSH situations in the relevant industries effectively. With regard to professional drivers, the LD has also adjusted our enforcement, promotion and education strategy through the above approach. In light of the OSH information we gathered, we focused our inspection work on the professional drivers' risk of heat stroke, musculoskeletal diseases and meal time arrangement, etc. in the past few years.

     As far as publicity and promotion are concerned, the focus of LD's work in the past few years was on the importance of heat stroke prevention and healthy living. In order to enhance the effectiveness of the publicity and promotion work, apart from producing educational short films for broadcasting in the mobile promotional media, the LD and the OSHC also organised the "Professional Drivers Health Ambassadors Workshop" from 2013 to 2016 to explain directly to professional drivers the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise, to improve their health awareness. On the whole, participants agreed that the workshop enhanced their awareness about their health conditions and improved their health, as well as helped them to develop good eating and exercise habits. In addition, according to LD's records, there has been a downward trend in the number of professional drivers attending occupational health clinics in the past three years, and there has been a noticeable decrease in the heat stroke cases of professional drivers since 2012. In 2017, the LD, in conjunction with the OSHC and the relevant workers' unions, continued to promote OSH messages among professional drivers.

     The LD will continue to keep track of the OSH situation of professional drivers and the effectiveness of the LD's publicity efforts through the above-mentioned means to ensure that our enforcement, promotion and education work can address the actual needs of professional drivers.

(4) Occupational disease refers to those diseases which have clear and strong relationship with certain occupations, and usually there is only one causal factor involved. In considering whether a disease should be prescribed as an occupational disease under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO), LD would consider whether there is direct causal relationship between the disease and certain type of work, including whether there is any medical evidence to indicate that the disease is clearly associated with a particular occupation. With regard to hypertension, general musculoskeletal discomfort, diseases of the gastrointestinal and digestive system, neuralgia, and stroke, etc., apart from work, they can also be caused by other factors including those that have no direct relationship with work, such as personal living and eating habits, age, medical history, family history, etc. These diseases do not fall under the definition of occupational diseases. Nevertheless, when an employee is suffering from a disease that is not an occupational disease prescribed in the ECO, he/she may still submit a claim for compensation under the ECO if it is proved that the bodily injury was sustained as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of employment.

     The existing employees' compensation system is primarily premised on a no-fault principle and employers' liability to pay compensation under ECO. At the same time, employers must, in accordance with ECO, take out employees' compensation insurance with authorised insurance companies. This is to ensure employers' ability to pay employees injured at work or family members of deceased employees' compensation stipulated in ECO and common law compensation awarded by the Court. Given that the cost-effectiveness of a central occupational insurance compensation fund has yet to be established and the above-mentioned mode of operation of the current employees' compensation system has been working well to better cater for the circumstances of Hong Kong, it is not advisable to make any substantial change at present.
Ends/Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Issued at HKT 17:05
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