LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1048/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/5/96

Bills Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Bill

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 24 January 1997 at 10:45 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka (Chairman)
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung

Member attending :

    Hon CHAN Wing-chan

Members absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Public officers attending :
    Mr Herman CHO
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mr K F LEE
    Deputy Commissioner for Labour
    Mr William SIU
    Assistant Commissioner for Labour
    Dr W K LO
    Occupational Health Consultant
    Labour Department
Attendance by invitation :
    Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

    Ms TANG Yin-ngao
    Mr MAK Tak-ching

    Occupational Safety and Health Council

    Mr TANG Wah-shing
    Executive Director

    Association for the Rights of Industrial Victims

    Mr WONG Yu-chung

    Hong Kong Workers Health Centre

    Mr CHAN Kun- kam
    Mr LIU Tak-yin
    Ms HUI Yu-ling
    Mr CHAU Lue-shou

    Federation of Hong Kong Industries

    Mr Carson CHAN
    Director of Industry and Research
    Mr Roger TAM
    Administrative Officer

    Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong

    Ms May CHOW
    Executive Director

    Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce

    Assistant Director (Industrial & Corporate Affairs)

    The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions

    Mr POON Siu-ping
    Mr LEE Keung-tsang
    Ms NG Wai-yee

    The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions

    Mr LEUNG Fu-wah
    Director of Occupational Safety & Health Committee
    Mr LEUNG Chi-kong
    Chairman of Clerical and Professional Employees Association
    Mr KAN Chai-shing
    Chairman of Garment-Making Trade Workers Union
    Mr CHAN Ming-leung
    Deputy Administrative Officer of Harbour

    Transportation Workers General Union

    Mr IP Wai-ming
    Senior Secretary

Clerk in attendance :

    Ms Estella CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4

Staff in attendance :

    Mr Arthur CHEUNG
    Assistant Legal Adviser 5
    Miss Anita SIT
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6

The Chairman advised that the purpose of the meeting was for meeting with deputations who would present their views on the Occupational Safety and Health Bill (the Bill).

I.Discussion with deputations

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Association for the Rights of Industrial Victims

[Paper No. CB(1)780/96-97(01)]

1. Representatives of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and the Association for the Rights of Industrial Victims presented their views as contained in the joint submission tabled.

2. On the two deputations’ view on the scope of persons covered by the Bill, the representatives elaborated that the proposed legislation should in principle cover all workers in non-industrial undertakings. Enforcement on domestic helper might be difficult but this should not pre-empt the need to provide legal protection for this group of workers. There should be compliance standards and requirements for employers of domestic servants to follow. Although there were provisions in the existing ordinances for the safety of workers in the transport industries, these ordinances were not concerned primarily with occupational health and safety and they were enforced by different Government departments. This would give rise to problems of inconsistency in enforcement practices, grey areas and, possibly, inadvertent exclusion of certain groups of workers from both the existing ordinances and the Bill. An example of those exempted from the Bill and possibly not covered by the existing ordinances were workers engaged in the unloading and loading of goods from and onto vehicles. The existing transport related ordinances only covered the safety of workers while working inside a vehicle.

3. At the request of members, the representatives undertook to provide more examples of groups of workers of the transport industries who might not be covered by the existing ordinances.

Occupational Safety and Health Council

[Paper No. CB(1)755/96-97(03)]

4. Mr TANG Wah-shing presented the views of the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) as contained in its submission.

5. Mr TANG elaborated on OSHC’s view that the proposed general duties provisions should be reviewed after the Bill had been enacted for three to five years. OSHC also considered it acceptable not to include direct penalty clauses in the general duties provisions during the initial enactment period. The need for such direct penalty clauses should be reviewed when a positive occupational health and safety culture had been established in non-industrial sectors, possibly after three to five years.

6. Dr LEONG Che-hung enquired about OSHC’s view on the suggestion for appointing occupational health specialists (OHS) in the workplace to advise and supervise the provision of facilities and education pertaining to occupational health and safety at work. Mr TANG acknowledged that the Council had not discussed this subject; he doubted if employers at large, in particular those of small undertakings, would agree with the idea. He suggested the incorporation of services of OHS into the existing medical schemes already sponsored or subscribed by some employers. Dr LEONG explained that the services of OHS were different from those provided under medical schemes or medical insurance. Services provided by OHS were preventive in nature and these included education, supervision and improvements to safety and health in the workplace. He agreed that for small undertakings, it might be more practical for several undertakings to share one OHS. Mr TANG undertook to convey the idea to OSHC.

Hong Kong Workers Health Centre

[(Paper No. CB(1)755/96-97(01)]

7. Mr CHAN Kun-kam presented the views of the Hong Kong Workers Health Centre (HKWHC) as contained in the HKWHC’s submission.

8. HKWHC proposed the establishment of a body separate from the present enforcement authority to supervise enforcement and to initiate reviews of future legislation. Mr CHAN elaborated that the enforcement authority, i.e. the Labour Department, was not the appropriate body to perform the functions of conducting independent reviews and initiating legislative amendments, since it was inclined to give priority to enforcement considerations and thus would not be responsive to calls for improvements to the legislation. The role of the independent body might be assumed by OSHC or a new independent body with representatives of employers and employees from various sectors.

9. Mr CHAN expressed concern about the lack of protection for self-employed persons in the Bill. Self-employed persons were only covered in the capacity of occupiers of premises where a workplace was located. HKWHC was of the view that reference should be made to the Health and Safety at Work Act of the United Kingdom where every employer had the duty to conduct his undertaking in such a way that persons not in his employment and who might be affected should not be exposed to health or safety risks. Furthermore, manufacturers and suppliers of articles and substances for use at work had the duty to ensure that the articles or substances were so designed and constructed that they would not pose risks to safety and health when used properly.

(Note: A copy of the extracts of the relevant provisions from the Health and Safety at Work Act provided by the deputation is at the Annex.)

Federation of Hong Kong Industries

[Paper No.CB(1)780/96-97(03)]

10. Representatives of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI) presented the views of FHKI as contained in its written submission.

11. In reply to Dr LEONG’s enquiry about FHKI’s view on the idea of appointing OHS in the workplace, the representatives said that the Federation had not considered the suggestion but would relate it to FHKI for its consideration.

Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)813/96-97)

12. Ms May CHOW presented the views of the Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong (EFHK) as contained in EFHK’s written submission.

13. Ms CHOW explained that the overall strategy to attain occupational health and safety in non-industrial undertakings should be preventive and educational rather than punitive. The main objective of enacting the proposed legislation should be to arouse public awareness and vigilance about occupational safety and health. The Government should hence focus its resources on promotion and education, rather than inspection and prosecution.

14. As regards the draft Occupational Safety and Health Regulation (OSHR), Ms CHOW said that EFHK found the draft regulation acceptable in general. However, EFHK was concerned that the forthcoming regulations under the Bill in respect of the other five major aspects might be unreasonably harsh on employers, in particular the proposed regulation on display screen equipment. She pointed out that regulations loaded with trivial details would place too many constraints on business operations, and restrict flexibility and room for creativity.

15. The Chairman remarked that other than the draft OSHR, other subsequent regulations to be enacted under the Bill were outside the purview of the Bills Committee.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce

[Paper No. CB(1) 755/96-97(04)]

16. Dr Y S CHEUNG presented the views of The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) as contained in its written submission.

17. Dr CHEUNG re-affirmed HKGCC’s objection to the legislative proposal raised during the consultation period of the Consulation Paper on the Review of Industrial Safety in Hong Kong in 1995.

18. As regards whether HKGCC considered it necessary to enact statutory fire safety requirements to protect employees’ safety, Dr CHEUNG said that fire safety requirements and other safety requirements in respect of premises should be laid down in the Fire Services Ordinance and the Buildings Ordinance respectively rather than subsumed under the draft OSHR. Other proposed regulations were also unnecessary as these safety aspects could be largely dealt with in the existing relevant ordinances. Mr CHAN Wing-chan expressed his disagreement with HKGCC’s view and considered it important to have a consolidated ordinance to cover the safety and health of employees in the workplace.

19. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan pointed out that the community’s concern about occupational safety and health nowadays covered a wider scope than occasional injuries and deaths at work. People in general had realized that there were many aspects in the workplace that could pose risks to one’s health if designed and used improperly, such as display screen equipment and design of chairs. He enquired if HKGCC had conducted any studies or launched educational programmes regarding these aspects. Dr CHEUNG responded that due to resource constraints, HKGCC had not conducted such studies or programmes. However, he remarked that HKGCC considered that the Bill and the forthcoming regulations as proposed by the Administration imposed too much constraint and obligation on employers. This approach would run the risk of eradicating the flexibility, responsiveness and entrepreneurship of Hong Kong businesses.

20. On the idea of appointing OHS in the workplace, Dr CHEUNG said that the critical issue was the party who would be responsible for the costs involved. It would be impractical to expect employers, especially small ones, to bear the costs. HKGCC would have no objection to the idea if the costs were to be borne by a public body, say the Occupational Safety and Health Council.

The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions

(Paper No. CB(1)780/96-97(04))

21. Representatives of The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions presented the views of the Federation as contained in its written submission.

22. On the ratio between employees and first-aiders, the Federation was of the view that there should be at least one first-aider for every 50 employees in a workplace.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions

(Paper No. CB(1) 755/96-97(02))

23. Representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) presented the views of HKFTU as contained in its written submission.

24. Regarding HKFTU’s view on the exemption of employees of the transport industries from the provisions of the Bill, the representatives stressed that leaving the safety and health of employees in these industries to the relevant existing ordinances would inevitably give rise to grey areas and cause confusion to employees, as was the situation at present. Indeed, those ordinances did not have adequate provisions in occupational health and safety for the workers concerned. For example, many safety provisions in the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance were obsolete with no relevance to the present-day mode of operation of the industry.

25. Referring to HKFTU’s objection to clause 8(1) of the Bill, the representatives pointed out that decisions of the Labour Advisory Board were usually not made by voting, including the decision on this clause. It was the chairman of the Board who drew the conclusion that the Board had reached a "consensus" on this clause.

26. On the persons to be covered by the Bill, the representatives commented that the Bill should cover not only employees. Persons who were not employees of an undertaking but were involved in the undertaking such as self-employed truck drivers should similarly be covered. They pointed out that there was a trend for employers to terminate employment contracts with their employees and then re-employ these employees on other contractual terms so to avoid legal obligations.

II. Any other business

27. The Chairman informed members that Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong had given notification to withdraw his membership on the Bills Committee.

28. The meeting ended at 1:05 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
11 March 1997

Last Updated on 15 Apr, 1997