Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 886
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/HG/1

Panel on Housing

Minutes of informal briefing held on Wednesday, 24 December 1997, at 2:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon CHAN Yuen-han (Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LAU Kong-wah

Members absent :

Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Public officers attending :

Housing Bureau

Miss Amy WONG,
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (2) (Atg)

Housing Department

Mr R A Bates,
Business Director/Commercial and Services

Assistant Director/Management (1)

Clerk in attendance :

Ms LEUNG Siu-kum,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2

Staff in attendance :

Miss Becky YU,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3

In the absence of a quorum, the Chairman declared that the meeting would proceed as an informal briefing, and that protection under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (Cap. 382) would not apply to members.

I. Safety problem of the facilities in the shopping centres of public housing estates

2. The Chairman advised that the meeting was called for in the wake of a recent accident where a boy, together with a glass panel fell from the first floor onto the ground floor in Ping Tin Shopping Centre. Given the common use of glass panel balustrade in the design of shopping centres, it was essential for the Administration to find out the cause of the accident to avoid similar recurrences.

3. The Business Director/Commercial and Services (BD/C&S) responded that the Administration was deeply perturbed by the accident. A team of in-house professionals from the Housing Department (HD) was deployed to investigate and to report on the technical issues surrounding the failure of the glass panel balustrade. A preliminary report would be made available this evening, to be followed by a further report which would deal with the cause of failure, procedures relating to the design, construction and maintenance of glass panel balustrades and possible improvement in procedures to prevent recurrence of the incident. These reports would be submitted for scrutiny by the Commercial Properties Committee and the Building Committee of the Housing Authority (HA) at a special joint meeting scheduled for 7 January 1998 before release to the public.

4. Mr CHAN Kam-lam remarked that during a site visit to Ping Tin Shopping Centre after the incident, it was noted that the manner in which the glass panel balustrades was installed was different from that required under the Building Regulations. By way of illustration, Mr CHAN pointed out that fixing screws used to secure the top stainless steel handrail of balustrades at both ends were missing; tempered glass panels were not fully embedded in the anchorage recesses; and glazing sealant in a number of handrails were found inadequate or missing. As these defects could be easily detected during the final inspection prior to handover of the shopping centre, Mr CHAN questioned the effectiveness of the inspection procedures to ensure compliance with performance standards and regulatory requirements. This was particularly important having regard to the substantial number of impending construction projects essential to meet the Chief Executive's pledge for annual provision of 85,000 flats. Expressing similar concern on inspection, Mr Bruce LIU asked if the Site Inspection Team had checked the on-site installation process of the glass panel balustrades step by step, and if not, someone should be held responsible for the accident.

5. In reply, BD/C&S advised that HA had in place a thorough system to monitor the building process from design to construction of its shopping centres. Prior to construction, designers would be given a design guide which laid down the design criteria for shopping centres, including the design for protective barriers. The final shop drawings would be submitted for approval by a design review panel. Although it was the responsibility of contractors for the supervision of works, HA adopted a performance scoring system which covered the procedures for approving building materials to ensure better quality control. Detailed inspection guidelines were also provided to HD staff to facilitate a trade-by-trade site inspection. Nevertheless, BD/C&S agreed with the need for a review on the system and assured members that apart from causes of the accident, the investigation would examine the procedures relating to the design, construction, and maintenance of barriers with a view to improving these procedures to prevent recurrence of the accident. BD/C&S however emphasized the need to establish the cause of the accident before HA could probe into the question of responsibility.

6. On safety requirements for barriers, BD/C&S advised that there were specific provisions under the Building Ordinance governing the design, installation and safety of barriers. Although HA was exempted from the Ordinance, it was committed to complying with all the statutory requirements to ensure high quality of works. At members' request, BD/C&S undertook to provide information on the regulations applicable to safety barriers.Admin

7. As shoppers were expected at peak level during the imminent festive seasons, members urged early actions in conducting inspection of safety barriers. BD/C&S acknowledged members' concern and advised that a visual survey on all the 28 HD-managed shopping centres with different designs of glass panel balustrade had been completed and no signs of potential failure were detected. A detailed technical inspection was being conducted on the balustrades to ensure that these were structurally safe. In the case of Ping Tin Shopping Centre, the Assistant Director/Management (AD/M) said that additional protective measures, including timber battens and metal fencing had been installed around the atrium by the management company. At members' request, the Administration also undertook to consider erecting warning signs in shopping centres concerned to alert the public to keep clear of safety barriers. While appreciating the expedient action taken by HD, a member considered that shopping centres in the private sector should also undertake similar inspections to avoid recurrence of the accident. The Clerk was requested to follow up with the Buildings Department.Admin

(Post-meeting note: Letters requesting assistance of the Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administration and the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies in alerting their members to the need for inspection of safety barrier installation were issued by the Buildings Department on 29 December 1997.)

8. As regards compensation for the victim concerned, AD/M advised that this would be covered by the public liability insurance under HD and the relevant property management company. The maximum compensation was $15 million per case. He added that HD had notified the relevant insurance company with a view to expediting the process of claims when necessary.

9. Before concluding, the Chairman said that the Panel would follow-up on the incident after the release of the investigation reports.

10. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 3:45 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
6 February 1998