LegCo Panel on Manpower

Measures to improve industrial safety in the construction industry


This paper informs Members of measures taken or to be implemented by the Administration to improve work safety in the construction industry.

Accidents in the Construction Industry

2. The safety performance of the construction industry has been a concern of the community and the Government. The following table shows the accident statistics for the construction industry over the past three years -

YearNo. of accidentsAccident rate per 1000 workers

( ) fatal cases

3. A closer analysis of the 1998 statistics shows that the fourth quarter recorded a reduction of 29% in number and 26% in accident rate over that of the third quarter, as shown below -

Accident No.+%Employment SizeRate+%
86,989 197.5#
Q25,161+20%80,975 254.9#+29%
Q35,924+15%75,810 312.6#+23%
Q44,208-29%72,253 233.0#-26%

79,007 (Av) 247.9

We hope this sign of improvement can be sustained by the measures we intend to take this year.

* The statistics quoted in 1998 were based on the date of injury, as extracted from the employee compensation reports (Form 2s), whereas those of 1997 and before were based on the date of these reports being entered into the computer system. Given the somewhat different basis of data entry, the statistics for 1997 & 1998 are not strictly comparable. However, the statistics for 1999 and future years will be comparable to that of 1998 since they will be compiled on the same basis.

# annualised

Strategic Objectives

4. While it remains the Administration's long-term objective to improve workplace safety through self-regulation by industries concerned, including the construction industry, there is a need to step up our efforts in enforcement, the promotion of safety awareness and good practices, education and training, and the provision of a legislative framework to reduce accidents.

5. The following sections describe the Labour Department's initiatives on these fronts with a view to further improving safety performance of this industry in the short and medium term. These initiatives seek to impress on duty holders that it pays to take safety seriously, recognize good performance and penalise the poor performers among both the contractors and the workers.

6. We believe that the duty holders in the construction industry recognize that their long term success depends on their quality and safety records. There are therefore strong incentives for the operators to perform well in these two key areas.

7. Our focus this year is to create this necessary environment through partnership with the major players in the industry (developers, contractors, professionals, insurers, training bodies, trade associations and workers' unions etc.).


8. Our enforcement strategy for the construction industry has been adjusted over the past two years by a different resource deployment and better operational planning.

(a) Key Result Areas

9. In 1997, with the support of the Committee on Occupational Safety and Health of the Labour Advisory Board, the Labour Department adjusted the frequency of inspection visits to tackle the high accident toll in certain establishments by trade and causation. Because of the high accident rate in the construction industry, the Department has redeployed more manpower resources to inspect and enforce safety legislation in construction-related activities.

(b) Manpower Redeployment

10. Since February 1999, we have divided field operations into two main streams, viz. a BEC (buildings, engineering, construction) stream and a non-BEC stream. The BEC stream will concentrate on construction safety. This division of responsibility will help develop more expertise and closer liaison with duty holders in both streams. In addition, the Department has increased its field officers in the BEC stream from 78 to 108, an increase of almost 40% to strengthen its enforcement capability for the construction industry.

(c) Expert Teams

11. At the time when ACP projects were under way, the Labour Department had a specialist office to monitor their safety performance. This approach proved very successful as ACP projects had a significantly better safety record than the industry average despite their higher construction risks. As the new Railway Strategy still involves a lot of cross-region projects (and so are the above-station developments), the Labour Department will transform this specialist office into task force teams to work with the two railway corporations as well as contractors undertaking major infrastructural projects. Our aim is to influence them to make adequate safety provisions in their contracts and enforcing them vigorously during the construction stage.

(d) Enforcement Focus

12. In response to comments in the Audit Commission's report (No. 31 of 1998), the Labour Department has also changed its enforcement strategy, particularly in the use of warnings when irregularities are identified. We accept the Audit comment that warnings may be disregarded unless they are followed up. We have therefore introduced a random checking system to address the problem. More importantly, we will adopt a 'get tough' approach against those who consistently fail to deliver a better safety performance. This year, we will be issuing fewer warnings and increasing direct prosecutions.

(e) New Tools

13. Given the relatively low fines imposed by the Courts which did not seem to have much deterrent effect, we have concluded that economic pressure must be brought to bear on those who fail to perform. Suspension notices have proved to be a very effective tool to bring management attention to improve poor safety conditions on site, particularly after a major serious accident. In 1998, a total of 186 suspension notices was issued to contractors, as opposed to only 23 in 1997.

14. The second tool we hope to make more use of it to try to influence a company's tendering opportunity in public works projects on account of its safety record. We will develop an assessment system jointly with the Works Bureau and the Housing Department to reflect a contractor's safety performance for consideration in the selection process.

15. The third tool is targeting specific companies by putting these companies on a watchlist. Initially, the senior management will be reminded of the need to put their own house in order. If the situation fails to show visible improvement, the Department will take vigorous blitz actions against all sites under their direct control across the territory. The Works Bureau and the Housing Department will be informed of the changes to site performance so that they could take appropriate parallel actions.

(f) Recognition of Good Performance

16. In respect of sites which have achieved low accident rate, good safety audit results and won prizes in award schemes, we will reduce the frequency of inspection visits in recognition of their ability to self-regulate.

(g) Prosecution Record

17. The Labour Department will also improve its information database to create safety profiles for the target companies. We hope that by systematically referring to a company's safety performance and conviction records, we would be in a better position to persuade the Court to hand down heavier sentences.

(h) Collective Responsibilities

18. We will also prosecute more sub-contractors, nominated contractors as well as persons having management and control of a site for specific failures on their part to bring home the concept of collective responsibility.

(i) Stricter Contract Terms

19. We are working very closely with the Works Bureau and the Housing Department with a view to introducing additional safety requirements in their works contracts, e.g. the employment of full-time safety supervisors on site, the mandatory requirements of personal protective equipment, proper risk assessment of the construction method, the authority to stop unsafe practices and conditions on site etc. These initiatives are being developed and will require the approval of the respective authorities.

(j) Campaigns

20. Special campaigns will also be launched to target at areas of particular concern to complement the Department's normal programme of inspection, investigation, advisory and enforcement activities. Such areas include the use of heavy equipment, earth-moving equipment and lifting appliances; on work in sewage and confined spaces; as well as on work-at-height situations and scaffolds. A list of the Labour Department's campaigns on the construction industry during 1998 is at Annex A. These areas will also be the Department's focal points in 1999.


21. Upon the Legislative Council's approval earlier this year, the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Confined Spaces) Regulation and Construction Sites (Safety) (Amendment) Regulation were enacted. These are important developments in ensuring a better system of working in confined spaces and at height. The Administration has submitted to this Council on 15.1.1999 a Bill to amend the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance to require mandatory safety training for those working in the construction and container handling industries. Over 68,000 workers in the construction industry have so far received safety training and obtained a "green card" issued by the Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA).

22. Upon the enactment of this Bill, the Administration will submit a new Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation to this Council for approval. The proposed regulation will require selected industrial undertakings, including construction sites, to set up a safety management system which will be monitored by regular audits or reviews. In this way, we hope to put in place in all these undertakings a safe system of work in keeping with the spirit of self-regulation.

23. In addition, the Administration will propose three new regulations to this Council for approval in this legislative session. The first one, to be made under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, will require employers to reduce the hazards at source, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees and train and supervise them in the proper use of such equipment. The second one requires pre-employment and periodic medical examination of workers engaged in 17 hazardous processes and the last one will introduce a training and certification scheme for operators of loadshifting machinery (e.g. fork-lift trucks and earth-moving equipment) on construction sites.

Safety Promotion

24. Of the 19,588 accidents which occurred in the construction industry in 1998, 73% was likely due to poor housekeeping on construction sites. A more detailed breakdown is at Annex B. We believe that most of these accidents could have been avoided if more attention had been given to housekeeping in the workplace. The Labour Department will launch a territory-wide safety campaign on good housekeeping practice. This campaign will be heralded by a launching ceremony, followed by promotion visits and on-site assessments of housekeeping practices. The purpose is not fault-finding but positive encouragement. The good performers will be identified and awards presented to them. A practical guide, at Annex C (available in Chinese version only), has been published to complement this drive.

25. Following the success of the safety shoes and hearing conservation campaigns in 1998, the proper use of PPE as a good housekeeping practice will be heavily promoted this year. There is a need for employers and employees to get to know more about PPE before they can understand and comply with the requirements in the proposed new regulation (paragraph 23). The Labour Department will stage a trade fair on PPE, at which PPE suppliers will be invited to exhibit and demonstrate their PPE and provide the technical specifications of their products. This will provide contractors and workers with an opportunity to learn more, try out and generally appreciate the applications of a wide variety of PPE in one single event. The focus will be protective gear for eyes, hands and respiratory system.

26. The Labour Department will continue its other efforts in promulgating the safety and health message through publishing guidebooks, accident case studies, codes of practices, and leaflets on various construction issues. It has distributed these publications to 8,000 registered contractors in the construction industry by direct mail. More construction related safety leaflets will be distributed through 260 publication stands placed in shopping centres, housing estates and government clinics. A handy booklet for workers' use and the latest issue of our construction site safety newsletter, are at Annexes D and E (available in Chinese version only) respectively for members' reference.

Education and Training

27. Education and training are part of the Government's efforts to assist the industry to improve its safety performance as well. A variety of law related courses are run free of charge by the Labour Department for those working in construction industry. In 1998, altogether 820 courses and talks were conducted, most of which were suitable for construction work. For 1999, 900 courses and talks have been planned. We have also worked with the CITA, tertiary institutions, the Vocational Training Centre, the Employees Retraining Board to include basic safety training as part of their induction and undergraduate training in construction-related subjects. Our aim is to help them know more about the hazards and the basic prevention steps before they work in the industry.

The Way Forward

28. To sum up, the Administration is determined to help the construction industry operate more safely. We are tackling the problem on all fronts but we do need the trades and the workers' strong support and cooperation. We also need LegCo members' support and understanding in the legislative process which is key to our success in enforcement work.

Labour Department
April 1999.

Annex A

Heavy Equipment, Earth-moving Machinery &
Lifting Appliances Safety Campaign (March 1998)

Total No. of Inspections3948
Total No. of Prosecutions250
Total No. of SNs issued3
Total No. of INs issued 192
Total No. of Warnings issued1295

Heavy Equipment and Work-at-height
Safety Campaign (April 1998)

Total No. of Inspections1613
Total No. of Prosecutions168
Total No. of SNs issued0
Total No. of INs issued129
Total No. of Warnings issued586

Scaffold, Dangerous Places and Unsafe Practices
Safety Campaign (June 1998)

Total No. of Inspections3535
Total No. of Prosecutions290
Total No. of SNs issued78
Total No. of INs issued146
Total No. of Warnings issued758

General and Scaffold Safety Campaign (July 1998)

Total No. of Inspections6804
Total No. of Prosecutions156
Total No. of SNs issued8
Total No. of INs issued155
Total No. of Warnings issued2079

Work-at-height, Sewage & Confined Space
Task Force (from 10.7.98 to 31.8.98)

Total No. of Inspections318
Total No. of Prosecutions40

Work-at-height Safety Campaign
(1st stage - October 1998)

Total No. of Inspections1776
Total No. of Prosecutions107
Total No. of SNs issued12
Total No. of INs issued61
Total No. of Warnings issued443

Work-at-height Safety Campaign
(2nd stage - November 1998)

Total No. of Inspections2204
Total No. of Prosecutions224
Total No. of SNs issued15
Total No. of INs issued73
Total No. of Warnings issued627

Fire Campaign in Dry Season (November 1998)

Total No. of Inspections4850
Total No. of Prosecutions102
Total No. of SNs issued0
Total No. of INs issued 76
Total No. of Warnings issued1964

Fire Campaign in Dry Season (December 1998)

Total No. of Inspections3948
Total No. of Prosecutions74
Total No. of SNs issued0
Total No. of INs issued50
Total No. of Warnings issued1419

Annex B

Types of accidents and their percentage weights in the Construction Industry that related to Housekeeping of the Workplaces

Type of AccidentNo. of cases in 1998 % of total in 1998
(i) Striking against or struck by moving object 4,95425.3%
(ii) Slip, trip or fall on same level 3,00415.3%
(iii) Striking against fixed and stationary object 2,58713.2%
(iv) Fall of person from height 1,6478.4%
(v) Struck by falling object 9184.7%
(vi) Stepping on object 7784.0%
(vii) Trapped in or between objects 2421.2%
(viii) Trapped by collapsing or overturning object 700.4%
Total 14,20072.5%