LCQ3: Support provided for employees injured at work
It is learnt that some workers have suffered from certain diseases (e.g. diseases related to lower limb strains arising from the need for prolonged standing at work) as a result of fulfilling the requirements of their jobs for a long period of time, but they are not qualified for compensation because such diseases are not included in the occupational diseases in the Second Schedule to the Employees' Compensation Ordinance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the Labour Department (LD) launched on September 23 last year a three-year Pilot Rehabilitation Programme for Employees Injured at Work (the Pilot Programme) targeting at injured employees in the construction industry, of the total number of injured employees who have been identified by LD as eligible for the Pilot Programme so far and, among them, the respective numbers of those who have and have not participated in the Pilot Programme; the reasons why injured employees who have been identified have not participated in the Pilot Programme;
(2) whether the authorities will consider regularising the Pilot Programme and opening it up to injured employees other than those in the construction industry; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether the Government will conduct a comprehensive review of the occupational diseases in the Second Schedule to the Employees' Compensation Ordinance and add new occupational diseases, e.g. diseases related to lower limb strains; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
To strengthen rehabilitation services for injured employees, the Labour Department (LD) launched the three-year Pilot Rehabilitation Programme for Employees Injured at Work (Pilot Programme) in September 2022. Adopting a case management approach, the Pilot Programme provides timely and quality private out-patient rehabilitation treatment services for participating injured construction employees to facilitate their early recovery and return to work. My reply to the question raised by the Hon Lam Chun-sing is as follows:
(1) As at February 28, 2023, the LD has, after conducting preliminary screening of the reported work injury cases in the construction industry and obtaining consent of the injured employees concerned, referred 357 cases to the Work Injury Rehabilitation Office (WIRO) of the Pilot Programme for follow-up. Among them, 224 injured employees have completed the enrolment procedure of the Pilot Programme and have been arranged to meet case doctors or have commenced rehabilitation treatment after assessment by case doctors; and 28 cases were still undergoing the enrolment procedures.
Employees of the remaining 105 cases did not participate in the Pilot Programme. The reasons were broadly as follows:
- After enquiry on the details by the WIRO, the employees were found ineligible to participate, e.g. the injuries did not involve musculoskeletal injuries or the sick leaves required for the work injuries were less than six weeks, etc.;
- The employees' work injuries required treatment in hospitals under the Hospital Authority, such as surgery;
- The employees had returned to work or were planning to return to work soon; or
- The employees considered but decided not to participate in the Pilot Programme on different grounds. For example, some preferred to continue receiving rehabilitation treatment services provided by the Hospital Authority, some considered that the location of the hospital or clinic they attended was more convenient, some chose to arrange their own private medical services, and some wished to continue receiving free private rehabilitation treatments provided by their employers, etc.
(2) The Pilot Programme targets at construction industry employees injured at work because they account for the highest percentage of work injury cases involving prolonged sick leave. Considering that the Pilot Programme is in its initial stage and that the manpower of rehabilitation professionals in the private market may not be able to cope with the additional service demand, the Pilot Programme seeks to focus on the construction industry for the time being. The LD will closely monitor the participation and efficacy of the Pilot Programme and explore in due course its way forward, including the possibility of covering injured employees in other industries, whether to extend the Programme, etc. Relevant stakeholders will be consulted.
(3) In considering whether a particular disease should be prescribed as an occupational disease in the Second Schedule to the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO), the LD will generally make reference to the International Labour Organization's criteria for occupational diseases. These include the existence of a definite causal relationship between exposure to specific hazards at work and occurrence of the disease as well as a significantly higher incidence of the disease in workers exposed to the hazards compared to the general population.
Some medical conditions, e.g. lower limb musculoskeletal diseases like knee degeneration and plantar fasciitis, do not meet the definition of occupational diseases as their cause relates to multiple non-work factors such as age, individual medical history, personal lifestyle and family history, and they are also common in the general population.
The LD has been monitoring international research on and prescription criteria for occupational diseases. If there is sufficient medical evidence suggesting that employees in certain trades in Hong Kong may contract a disease as a result of their exposure to specific hazards at work and the incidence of the disease among these employees is significantly higher than that of the general population, the LD will consider amending the Second Schedule to the ECO to include such diseases in the list of occupational diseases.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:56
Issued at HKT 11:56