Paper No. CB(2)1716/98-99(02)

(English translation prepared by the
Legislative Council Secretariat
for Members' reference only)

(Letterhead of the Hong Kong Container Depot & Repairer Association Ltd.)

15 April 1999

Dear members of the Bills Committee,

Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Bill 1999
Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation

I have taken part in the consultation work of the Central Container Handling Safety Committee of the Labour Department for over a decade. I am also the incumbent Chairman of the Hong Kong Container Depot & Repairer Association Ltd. ("CDRN") which represents over 80% of the container storage yards in the territory. As the company I work for is engaged in a wide scope of transportation business, I am able to solicit views from persons employed in depots and container drayage through various means.

We support the Government's move to enhance the safety awareness of workers in the container handling industry and to minimize the number of accidents in the trade. We are also most willing to provide professional opinions of in-service personnel in respect of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Bill 1999 ("the Bill") and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation ("the Regulation"). The views collected by the CDRA are summarized as follows:

1. Under the Bill, the definition of "container handling" shall cover the loading, unloading, stacking, unstacking, storing, keeping or maintaining of containers. We propose that as appeared in the Chinese version of the Bill be amended to and "keeping or maintaining" as appeared in the English version be amended to "maintenance or repair".

2. The phrase "loading and unloading" of containers has a broad sense. The original legislative amendment may be to target at loading and unloading activities carried out in container storage yards. However, the same activities are also frequently found in depots, factories and even roadside. As far as we understand, operators of depots are not aware of the fact that the activities therein fall under the scope of the Bill. They have no intention whatsoever to make arrangement for their workers to receive relevant training and obtain the "green card". As for factory workers and other container handling workers, they also know very little about the Bill. They are of the view that the Bill only targets at container terminals and container yards. We are yet to find out whether the Government has any intention to subject the above activities to the regulation of the Bill.

3. Under the Regulation, industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers are exempted from adopting the safety management system as specified. It is not clear as to whether the whole enterprise or a single construction site should be taken as the basis for counting the number of employees. Small enterprises can hardly afford to hire a safety officer whose qualifications are considered relatively high as required under the safety management system, especially in a period of economic downturn such as now. We urge the Government to relax the requirement in qualification in order to make compliance easier.

4. The word "handling" should include container drayage. However, according to the explanation given by the Labour Department, the provisions of the Bill shall only apply to trucks frequently involved in internal shuttling in container terminals and yards. The number of full-time truckers engaged in such operations is minimal. In practice, truckers work in turn to take a rest. It will be impractical to require all of them to hold "green cards". Similar situations may be found in loading and unloading activities in container terminals. In case of an emergency such as a typhoon, operators of container terminals may need to hire workers on a temporary basis. It is practically impossible to guarantee that every worker hired is equipped with a "green card". We urge the Government to exempt those workers who are not frequently engaged in the container handling operations from the requirement.

5. Enacting legislation hastily without filly consulting the affected parties will only end up in creating grey areas. Such grey areas not only will perplex the industrial and labour sectors, but will also pose enforcement difficulties to the Labour Department. If a lot of problems crop up and cannot be addressed immediately, lengthening the grace period will be of no help. On the contrary, it will contradict the legislative intent. It is hoped that the new legislation will define clearly who are to be subject to its regulation. If it is the intention of the Government to regulate a wide range of activities, it will be more appropriate to extend the consultation period and defer the law-making process.

We urge the Legislative Council to seriously consider the above views in scrutinizing the Bill and the Regulation.

Roger LAU
Hong Kong Container Depot &
Repairer Association Ltd.