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LCQ14: Occupational safety and health
     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Lo Wai-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):


     Consecutive industrial accidents happened recently in Hong Kong which resulted in injuries and deaths have aroused grave concerns among various sectors in the community about occupational safety and health (OSH). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of inspections conducted and the number of prosecution summonses issued, in each of the past three years and since January this year, by the Labour Department (LD) under OSH-related legislation, as well as the percentage of convicted cases;

(2) of the following information regarding the convicted cases mentioned in (1): the highest and lowest amounts fined, the longest and shortest terms of imprisonment imposed for cases involving fatal industrial accidents, as well as the respective numbers of cases in respect of which the LD requested the Department of Justice to seek the court's review of, and to lodge an appeal to the court against, the penalties imposed; and

(3) whether the LD took new measures, in each of the past three years and since January this year, to (i) step up inspections and monitoring for ensuring OSH, and (ii) step up education and training for raising OSH awareness, with a view to ensuring that employers have put in place stringent working guidelines and safety equipment, and employees act fully in compliance with the safety guidelines; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The reply to the question raised by the Hon Lo Wai-kwok is as follows:

(1) The number of inspections conducted by the Labour Department (LD) under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance in each of the years from 2019 to 2022 (up to end October) is as follows:
  2019 2020 2021 2022 (up to end-October)
Number of inspections 166 036 105 286 130 676 97 247
Note: The numbers of inspections in 2020 and 2021 were lower than the number in 2019 owing to the implementation of special work arrangements for government employees in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

     In the above-mentioned period, the statistics of the occupational safety and health (OSH) summonses are tabled below:
  2019 2020 2021 2022 (up to end-October)
Number of OSH summonses heard 3 034 2 657 2 649 1 914
Number of OSH summonses convicted 2 379 2 136 1 887 1 451
Conviction rate 78% 80% 71% 76%
Note: The LD does not keep the number of summonses issued.

(2) From 2019 to 2022 (up to end-October), the highest and lowest fines imposed in respect of convicted OSH summonses are tabled below:
Convicted OSH summonses 2019 2020 2021 2022 (up to end-October)
Highest fine $100,000 $80,000 $300,000 $100,000
Lowest fine $500 $800 $600 $800

     In the above-mentioned period, there was only one fatal case in which the convicted defendant of OSH summonses was sentenced to imprisonment. The sentence was a two weeks' imprisonment (Note: This imprisonment sentence ran concurrently with the 18 months' imprisonment sentence imposed by court on the defendant in respect of a convicted charge of "dangerous driving causing death" laid by the Police in the same fatal case).

     In the same period, the number of cases that the LD requested the Department of Justice to lodge a review or appeal against the sentence imposed by court in respect of OSH summonses is tabled below:
  2019 2020 2021 2022 (up to end-October)
Number of cases that LD requested the Department of Justice to lodge a review or appeal against the sentence imposed by court in respect of OSH summonses 6 5 7 5

(3) The LD has been adopting a multi-pronged strategy to enhance OSH in various industries through inspection and enforcement, publicity and promotion as well as education and training. From 2019 to 2022 (up to end-October), apart from the LD's ongoing work, the LD adopted the following measures with a view to enhancing the OSH awareness of employers and employees.

     Regarding inspection and enforcement, the LD strives to combat breaches of OSH legislation through inspections of different kinds and focusing on different targets. In addition to issuing suspension notices for high-risk operations, prosecutions were initiated when there was sufficient evidence.

     As the number of fatal industrial accidents in the construction industry and its accident rate per 1 000 workers have been the highest of all industries, apart from strengthening the impact of our regular enforcement and inspections, the LD continued to undertake a series of targeted measures to improve the OSH performance of the industry. These measures included closely monitoring different high-risk processes and the overall risk profile of different construction sites. The LD conducted special enforcement operations if the number of accidents concerning a particular work process was on the rise or if a series of serious incidents/accidents happened on a particular construction site. Targeting construction sites with poor safety performance and possible deficiencies in their safe systems of work, the LD conducted in-depth surprise inspections. The LD conducted area patrols (including weekends) to target repairs, maintenance, alterations and additions works sites (especially those using truss-out scaffolding) that the LD had no records. In order to keep close tabs on the projects' OSH conditions and risks, the LD participated actively in site safety management committee meetings of public works projects so that more focused inspection strategies could be devised.

     Taking into account the risk situation and the changes, the LD made use of various channels and organised different kinds of publicity and promotion as well as education and training activities targeting individual stakeholders (including employers and employees). Major relevant activities undertaken by the LD in the above-mentioned period are listed in the Annex.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:40
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