on 14 September 1998
LEGCO PANEL ON
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND BROADCASTING
Progress Report on the Review of the Use of
Dangerous Goods in Film Production
This paper informs Members of the progress of the review of the use of dangerous goods in film production and the formulation of a new regulatory framework.
2. The use of fireworks has been generally prohibited since 1967. In view of the proliferation in the illegal use of pyrotechnics for the creation of special effects in film shooting by film companies and television stations, the former Executive and Legislative Councils approved in March 1993 a regulatory system whereby a permit is required from the relevant authorities for the use of pyrotechnics in the production of motion pictures and television programmes as well as for theatrical performances. However, the film and television industries refuse to comply with the licensing requirements provided for under the existing legislation on the ground that the existing regulatory system is impractical and does not meet their operational needs. In effect, this had rendered the regulatory system useless and there was no control on the use of pyrotechnics. Non-compliance of the regulatory requirements also poses threat to the safety of the public as well as the film crew. To rectify the problem, the Government set up an Inter-Departmental Working Group in October 1997 to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing regulatory system. A brief outline of the existing regulatory system is at Annex. The Working Group is chaired personally by the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting and comprises representatives from the Civil Engineering Department, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Fire Services Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, the Marine Department and the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA).
The Outcome of the Review
3. The Inter-Departmental Working Group concluded after examining all the issues involved that the existing regulatory system needs to be improved in the following areas :
- combined use of pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods
It is not uncommon for the industry to use pyrotechnics together with other dangerous goods (such as fuel gas and petrol) in the creation of special effects in film production. While the use of pyrotechnics falls within the purview of the Mines and Quarries Division of the Civil Engineering Department, the use of fuel gas and its associated installations is under the purview of Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services, and the use of other dangerous goods in excess of the exempted quantities (for instance more than 20 litres of petrol) requires a licence from Director of Fire Services. The division of responsibilities of each department is clear. However, these departments lack the experience and expertise in dealing with the combined use of pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods in varying quantities which give rise to very different chemical reactions. They are therefore reluctant to grant approval. This had affected the effective implementation of the present regulatory system.
- Registration of local film special effects operators
The current regulatory system requires pyrotechnic devices to be discharged by a pyrotechnician registered with Commissioner of Mines (C of M). Otherwise a permit application would not be approved. At present we do not have a registration system for local pyrotechnicians. As a result, a local pyrotechnic special effects operator has to possess a valid pyrotechnician licence issued by a relevant authority in a country with an established licensing system before he can register with C of M and apply for a permit. Despite their considerable experience in the trade, most of the local pyrotechnic operators cannot become registered operators as they do not have the requisite overseas qualifications recognised by C of M. To comply with the law, film companies have to hire qualified overseas pyrotechnic operators for the creation of special effects scenes using dangerous goods. This not only increases production costs but also affects the livelihood of local pyrotechnic operators.
- Limitations of existing legislation
Use of pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods is regulated by the Dangerous Goods Ordinance and the Gas Safety Ordinance which are not specifically designed to cater for the operation of film production. In view of the special circumstances surrounding the use of pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods in the creation of special effects in film production, there is a need to formulate a regulatory system which caters for the operational needs of the film industry.
4. Since most of the local special effects operators have not received recognised training, and at present the relevant government departments have yet to fully master the regulatory standards for shooting special effects scenes locally, the Government has decided to hire two consultants from the USA to help run the existing regulatory system, provide training for the departments concerned and local special effects operators, and to give advice on the new regulatory system. To ensure that comprehensive expert advice can be obtained with regard to the creation of special effects scenes, the Government has engaged a Pyrotechnic Operator Special Effects (First Class) to provide expert advice from a practitioner's angle on the proper and safe use of pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods in the creation of special effects. A retired Fire Marshal has also been engaged to provide advice on the regulatory aspects.
THE PROPOSED REGULATORY SYSTEM
Long Term Measures
5. Having consulted the industry and the Film Services Advisory Committee, the Government now proposes to set up a new regulatory system to cater for the operational needs of the film industry. Details of the proposed regulatory system are as follows :
- to establish a licensing system for pyrotechnic operators (film special effects). This will be complemented by a grading system which governs the type of special effects scenes each grade of licensed pyrotechnic operators (special effects) is allowed to handle. Local film special effects practitioners will be graded by their level of competence through an examination system. Details of the proposed licensing system will be worked out by the overseas consultant commissioned by the Government and regard will be had to the operation of the local film industry. An apprenticeship system will be adopted to train up future operators.
- to centralize the function and responsibilities of issuing permits and licences. It is proposed that TELA be appointed to be the central licensing authority responsible for issuing permits for the use of dangerous goods in film and television programme production.
6. New legislation has to be enacted for the purpose of implementing the new regulatory system. As it takes time to process the new legislation, a provisional registration system to permit local special effects pyrotechnic operators who possess an acceptable level of competence but do not have recognised overseas qualifications to practise their trade in a limited manner within the confines of the existing system is necessary. The Government will provide suitable training courses for local practitioners. Assessment of the level of competence of local practitioners by overseas consultants will be arranged and the practitioners have to sit for examinations. C of M will consider registering, on a provisional basis, those operators who have passed the examinations and were assessed to possess an acceptable level of competence, thus allowing them to handle a limited range of pyrotechnic devices and other dangerous goods in the creation of certain special effects. The overseas consultant will recommend to the Government concrete arrangements for the provisional registration. The provisional registration system is expected to be implemented in March 1999.
7. Pending the institution of the provisional registration system and for the sake of the safety of the public and local practitioners, the film industry is required to comply with the existing regulatory system by hiring pyrotechnic (special effects) operators recognised by C of M for the creation of special effects using pyrotechnics and other dangerous goods .
8. The Government will maintain close liaison with the industry and consult them as necessary with a view to establishing a regulatory system which will meet the needs of the industry and ensure public safety and security.
Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau
〔LegCo Panel-dangerous goods.doc〕
Regulatory System on the Use of Dangerous Goods
in the Production of Films and Television Programmes
The use of pyrotechnics in the production of films and television programmes is regulated by Section 59 of the Dangerous Goods (General) Regulations (Chapter 295). The Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing* and the Director of Marine are the authorities responsible for the issue of permits for the discharge of pyrotechnics on land and on water respectively. They will consult relevant departments (including the Mines and Quarries Division of the Civil Engineering Department, Fire Services Department, Hong Kong Police Force, and Electrical & Mechanical Services Department) and set licensing conditions relating to fire precautions and the protection of public safety before approving any application for a permit.
2. A pyrotechnician responsible for the discharge of pyrotechnics must be registered with the Commissioner of Mines before a permit for discharge of pyrotechnics is granted. This is to ensure that pyrotechnics are discharged by a pyrotechnician who is experienced in discharging pyrotechnics and producing pyrotechnic effect. A storage licence and a removal permit issued by the Commissioner of Mines are required for the storage and conveyance of pyrotechnics respectively. A declaration of fitness and a removal permit issued by the Marine Department is required for a vessel carrying or conveying pyrotechnics respectively.
3. The use of fuel gas in shooting films or television programmes must comply with the relevant provisions of the Gas Safety Ordinance (Chapter 51). Under the Gas Safety (Registration of Gas Installers and Gas Contractors) Regulations, any gas installation work should be carried out by a registered gas installer employed by a registered gas contractor. In addition, any gas container or devices to be used for the storage or release of fuel gas will require the approval of the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services. In addition, a dangerous goods licence is required from the Director of Fire Services for using dangerous goods in excess of the exempted quantities.
* Permits for the use of pyrotechnics on land used to be issued by the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport. With the re-organisation of the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau on 9 April 1998, the licensing responsibility has been transferred to the Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing.
Annex-dangerous goods (LegCo Panel).doc