Submissions of the Society of Registered Safety Officers to the Bills Committee meeting of 20/4/99 on the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Bill 1999 and Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation.
Mr Rheo Lam, Honorary Secretary, The Society of Safety Officers
1.1 The Society of Registered Safety Officers (SRSO) thanks the Committee for providing this opportunity to make submission on the F&IU. Bill (the Bill) and the F&IU (Safety Management) Regulation (the Regulation)
1.2 In general SRSO support the changes proposed in the Bill and the proposed Regulation. Much of our views and standpoints do not stem from the viewpoint and interest of Safety Officers alone. Our submissions are in fact mainly revolving round one major objective which is to improve and enhance the safety performance of the community as a whole in as efficient and effective a manner as possible. This is also one of the visions of SRSO.
1.3 For convenience purpose, I am going to make our observations and comments following the numbering sequence of the Legislative Council Brief.
2. Importance of Basic Induction Safety Training (Para 3)
As an organisation of safety professionals SRSO would not underestimate the importance of safety training in achieving good safety performance. SRSO have however very much reservation in agreeing to the Administration's statement "between 1995 and 1997, the average annual accident rate in public sector construction sites were 78% lower than the corresponding figures in private sector sites where no safety training requirement is in place". This is by far over-simplifying, if misleading is not intended, as far as the importance of safety training on accident reduction is concerned.
SRSO UNDERSTAND and BELIEVE that there are other more crucial and causation-related factors which are contributory to the better safety performance of the public works construction sites than private sector sites. This 78% difference in accident rate does not result from the effect of safety training alone. SRSO IS NOT CONVINCED by the extent of the effect and the importance that safety training could bring about as suggested by the Administration. SRSO CAUTION Legislative Council not to have a false hope on the result of safety training on accident prevention.
As many SRSO members are working in the construction industry, it is our BELIEF through our experience and observation that companies which have a strong safety commitment from the management, employment of dedicated professional safety personnel and a sound safety organisation generally produce better safety performance than those have not. Contracts for public construction work have a better overall safety performance mainly because the contracts generally stipulate the requirements and provisions for safety management of the contractors. Whereas private project contracts do not have similar provisions and therefore have a poor performance on safety. Follow this track for the treasure pot.
3. F & IU Section 6A (Para 4)
SRSO QUESTION why the Administration fail to enforce effectively Section 6A which requires the proprietor to provide a safe system of work which comprises, among other things, safety training for workers?
SRSO SUGGEST Legislative Council to call for a thorough understanding and a comprehensive review on the present manner the Section 6A has been enforced. This will enable the community at large and the Legislative Council to understand why this general duty legislation which, has been the most far-reaching as far as safety at work is concerned, cannot produce the intended result as legislated.
SRSO QUESTION whether the proposed safety training is viewed by the Administration as adequate and sufficient as far as compliance of Section 6A on the provision of training is concerned.
4. Mandatory Safety Training (Para 5)
From the Safety Training Course Syllabus (Annex C) which lasts only 1 day, it suggests and SRSO BELIEVE, that many companies, which have the employment of safety officers, are able to conduct such safety training for their workers, probably in smaller classes and in a more flexible time-table than the CITA and VTC.
SRSO REQUEST that the legislation must allow the alternative provision for companies, trade unions and institutional organisations to run safety training courses for workers on their own. This move will on the one hand achieve the purpose of enhancing safety activity and commitment of the community and on the other hand will reduce the burden of the Administration and CITA & VTC who, under the present proposal, are the only sources providing the training. Better results can be achieved if CITA & VTC can direct their training resources & facilities to help train the trainers and to assist companies, trade unions and institutional organisations to establish and run the safety training on their own. Labour Department can still be the issuing authority of the certificate to workers on recommendation from the companies, trade unions and institutional organisations that such training has been accomplished.
5. Safety Management System and What Then (Para 12)
SRSO are in general in support of legislating the requirement for a safety management system. SRSO are, however, of the opinion that there are far more business and undertakings requiring safety management than those suggested by the Regulation. Undertakings and business like hospitals, banks, supermarkets, institutions of higher education & the civil service, etc. are these targeted business and undertakings. They all have a common characteristic of having a large number of employees and the hazards are no less. These undertakings and business have already had a relatively well structured management organisation and implementing safety management system in these organisations is not likely to have great difficulties. It is likely to be more effective than many of the industrial undertakings now proposed to have safety management system. SRSO therefore SUGGEST strongly that this safety management requirement be made under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance to have a wider coverage.
As is indicated in Para 11 of the Brief, many companies and construction projects, to which the Regulation is going to apply, have in fact had already implemented the safety management system to a certain extent and have achieved good results, SRSO therefore BELIEVE that with a narrow coverage of the Regulation the aim of achieving a major overall improved safety performance in the territories is unlikely to be high and the result is not going to satisfactory. The Legislative Council should not be unfamiliar with the promises and claims made by the Administration each and every time when a piece of safety legislation is tabled. Every time and every piece of safety legislation is made and meant for reducing the number of accidents but the results have all been disappointing as can be seen from the track record.
It has been the long standing conviction of SRSO that if a correct fundamental change is made, the overall safety performance of the territory will automatically be improved. All entrepreneur are very cost conscientious. The medical cost of an accident is one of the most effective way to drive a contractor or an employer to conscientiously look into why an accident happen and take effective actions to prevent it. This cost factor alone is by far more effective than any safety legislation.
At the present moment the current public medical system has been subsidising the medical cost of each and every work accident requiring medical attention and treatment.
If the contractors or the employers are by legislation required to pay the full medical cost of each and every work accident of his employees or persons under his employ, the contractors and employers, being smart and intelligent, are no doubt able to find their optimal level of affordable number of work accidents.
As the Administration is currently consulting the public on how medical expenses should be funded, SRSO SEE it opportune for the Administration to take steps to recover the medical cost of work accidents from the employers and contractors concerned.
The current medical charging system provides too little incentive to the contractors and employers to be alert of the true and full cost of work accidents many of which are as a result of their lack of commitment in safety or the omission on their part in providing a safe place of work for the persons under their employ.
SRSO is a true believer of cost-effectiveness and value-for-money. When the community is subsidising so significantly the employers and contractors on work accident cost, there will hardly be any system, ways and means or legislation which can drive the contractors and employers to conscientiously prevent accident at work as effectively as medical cost.
SRSO REQUEST Legislative Council to seriously consider to legislate to recover the full medical cost of work accidents from the employers and contractors if a remarkable improvement in safety performance of the territory is intended.
6. Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation
6.1 Designated Undertakings
To include other business and undertakings like hospitals, supermarkets, banks, institutions of higher education, etc. (see paragraph 5 above)
6.2 Schedule 1 " Eligibility to be Registered as Safety Auditor
6.2.1 SRSO from an own experience strongly FELT that the minimum working experience required for registration is at least 5 years post registration as a safety officer.
6.2.2 SRSO is not sure what exactly the term "management post" mean. Is a registered safety officer employed to discharge all the statutory duties of the Safety Officers and Safety Supervisors Regulation considered to be holding a managerial post?
If not, what else are required?
SRSO BELIEVE that the management skill & knowledge are required for the audit work and if this is also what the Regulation is looking for, the Regulation should spell out such requirements clearly in quantifiable terms, e.g. a degree or diploma in management studies.
Managerial duties of the managerial posts and the registered safety officers can vary from company to company.
6.3 Conflicts & Undue Stress
6.3.1 It is envisaged that most companies and contractors are likely to have and to appoint their own safety auditors who probably are also serving as the safety officers at the same time.
6.3.2 SRSO cannot see how such dual-roled employees can escape from undue pressures from the employer. Such undue pressure will either affect the quality of the safety audit performance or produce unnecessary stress to the dual-roled employees.
6.3.3 Has the Administration considered the merit of legislating for external safety auditors.
6.4 Registered Scheme
6.4.l It is known fact that many SRSO members have already taken training of some of the schemes already. What considerations have the Administration given to the situation where an auditor has taken audit training from a Scheme operator who eventually does not apply for registration. SRSO ADVOCATE that Codes of Practice for Scheme Registration should be produced and publicised at least one year prior to the commencement of the Regulation and the criteria for Scheme registration must be clearly sounded out.
6.5 Further Information
This submission represents the view of the Society of Registered Safety Officers and not of any individual. SRSO welcome any opportunities to discuss with or to exchange opinion on the Bill or the Regulation or any other matters relating to safety and health. Interested parties can contact any one of the Executive Council Members or the Honorary Secretary Mr Rheo Lam at 2859 2400, 2858 7159 (Fax) c/o Safety Office, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
Rheo Lam (Hon. Secretary)
For and on behalf of
Society of Registered Safety Officers