LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 629/96-97
(The minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/43/95/S2
Bills Committee on the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Bill
Minutes of the 5th Meeting held on Monday, 4 November 1996 at 4:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)Members Absent:
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU, OBE, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Dr Hon Samuel WONG, MBE, FEng, JP*Public Officers Attending :
Hon TSANG Kin-shing*
- Mrs Sarah KWOK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Miss Agnes TSE
- Assistant Secretary for Security
Fire Services Department
- Mr LAM Chun-man
- Chief Fire Officer (Protection), Fire Protection Bureau
- Mr Peter WONG
- Senior Engineer (Protection), Fire Protection Bureau
- Mr CHEUNG Hau-wai
- Assistant Director, Legal and Management
- Mr LAM Siu-tong
- Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting)
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mr Duncan BERRY
- Consultant, Law Drafting Division
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
- Mr Stephen LAM
- Assistant Legal Adviser 4
- Miss Salumi CHAN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)1
I. Confirmation of Minutes of the Third Bills Committee Meeting
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 312/96-97)
The minutes of the third Bills Committee meeting held on 15 October 1996 were confirmed.
II. Discussion with the Administration
(Appendix to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 124/96-97)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 154/96-97)
Annex to the Administrations written reply dated 11 October 1996
2. Members continued to discuss with the Administration the summary table on the 22 commercial premises inspected by the Buildings Department (BD) and the relevant layout plans.
Shopping arcade (Case No. 1)
3. In response to Mr Ronald ARCULLIs queries raised at the third Bills Committee meeting on the first case in page 4 of the summary table, Mr LAM Siu-tong advised that the existing three smoke vents in the shopping arcade were provided in accordance with the requirements of the 1989 "Code of Practice for Fire Resisting Construction (FRC Code)". Under this old version of the FRC Code, there were no stipulated requirements on the distance between smoke vents. However, the 1996 FRC Code required that the distance between smoke vents should not exceed 30 metres. In applying this new version of the FRC Code, the BD concluded that an additional smoke vent should be provided in the basement of the shopping arcade.
4. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Mr LAM Siu-tong advised that there should be no great difficulties for the owner concerned to carry out the required improvement works. Mr Edward HO asked whether this analysis also covered the requirements of the Fire Services Department (FSD). Mr LAM Chun-man confirmed that the requirements of the FSD were not covered in this analysis but were in fact listed in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 of the Bill.
5.Mr Edward HO noted that under paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2, it was stated that "The following are kinds of fire service installations and equipment that an owner of prescribed commercial premises may be required to provide in relation to the premises......". He considered the words "kinds of" and "may be required" ambiguous. They seemed to imply that the five kinds of installations and equipment listed in paragraph 1(1)(a) to (e) of Schedule 2 were only illustrative, but not exhaustive. Mr LAM Chun-man clarified that the five kinds of installations and equipment listed were exhaustive.
6. To avoid ambiguity, Mrs Miriam LAU suggested to delete the words "kinds of" from paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2. In this connection, ALA4 pointed out that Schedule 2 was set in accordance with clause 5(1) of the Bill under which "The relevant enforcement authority may serve on the owner of prescribed commercial premises a fire safety direction directing the owner to comply with all or any of the requirements specified in Schedule 2". As such, the requirements specified in Schedule 2 should be exhaustive. The Administration might consider revising the wordings of paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 to reflect this point.
|7. The Chairman concluded that the drafting of paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 would be considered at a later stage when the Bills Committee examined the Bill clause-by-clause.||Adm|
Shopping arcade (Case No. 3 : FSD Ref. #12)
8. Mr LAM Siu-tong advised that amongst the 22 commercial premises inspected by the BD, only one had great practical difficulties in carrying out the required improvement works. It was a pre-war building reconstructed from a market to a shopping arcade about 10 years ago. It had a minor deficiency in which two exit staircases were provided with two winders. However, substantial alteration works could not be carried out as the building had been declared as a historical building. The BD would discuss with the Antiquities Advisory Board and the owner concerned to see how the matter could be resolved.
9. Mr Edward HO pointed out that even if the shopping arcade in question was not a historical building, the owner concerned still had difficulties in carrying out the required improvement works because it was expected that at least 6 months would be required for completing the improvement works and, the shopping arcade had to be temporarily closed during that period. Mrs Selina CHOW and Mrs Miriam LAU shared his concern. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Mr CHEUNG Hau-wai advised that a period of 4 months would be required for completing the required improvement works. Mr LAM Siu-tong added that as it was only a minor deficiency, there should not be great difficulties in rectifying the situation and, it might not be necessary to temporarily close the shopping arcade.
10. Mrs Selina CHOW considered that as the building in question was reconstructed about ten years ago, it should have complied with the requirements of the then prevailing Codes of Practice and therefore achieved an acceptable standard of fire safety. Mrs CHOW queried whether it was justified to issue a direction for substantial alteration works to rectify a "minor deficiency" in a building which had achieved an acceptable standard, though not the up-to-date standard, of fire safety. Mr CHEUNG Hau-wai advised that in order to address members concern raised at previous meetings in this aspect, the Administration would propose amendments to paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 to specify the versions of the three Codes of Practice to be applied under the Bill and to remove the phrase "from time to time". Any future changes in the versions of the three Codes of Practice to be specified in Schedule 2 could only be made through subsidiary legislation.
|11. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Mrs Sarah KWOK advised that the Administration suggested to specify the most up-dated version (1995 or 1996) of the three Codes of Practice in paragraph 3 of Schedule 2. Mrs Selina CHOW considered that this proposed amendment could not address members concern that those premises constructed in 1995 in accordance with the then prevailing Codes of Practice would also be required to carry out improvement works to meet the standard of the 1996 Codes of Practice. Mrs KWOK assured members that the enforcement authorities would set a priority and would not take enforcement action against newly completed buildings in the first phase.||Adm|
Supermarket (Case No. 1 : FSD Ref. #4)
12. Members and the Administration discussed at length the first case in page 5 of the summary table and the relevant layout plan. As the required improvement works appeared to be quite complicated, Mrs Selina CHOW raised query on why it was stated in the summary table that the Administration did not envisage practical difficulties in carrying out the works. Mr LAM Siu-tong advised that the supermarket in question was occupying the ground floor and mezzanine floor of the building. As there was no alternative exit provided for the mezzanine floor, it was required to provide an additional exit staircase to that floor by upgrading the existing circulation staircase to exit staircase by properly enclosing it with fire resisting construction material. There was no need to temporarily close the supermarket for carrying out the required improvement works. The Chairman asked whether there were alternatives available. Mr LAM advised that this was the most convenient method to rectify the situation.
13. Mr Edward HO and Mr Ronald ARCULLI asked for the exact size of the supermarket. Judging from the relevant layout plan, it seemed that its total floor areas (ground floor + mezzanine floor) might merely exceed 230 m² - the threshold adopted in the Bill. Mr HO considered that such a small supermarket might not attract significant customer flow and therefore would not need two exit staircases. Moreover, under the 1996 Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Escape in Case of Fire (the MOE Code), single staircases might be permitted in buildings not exceeding 6 storeys in height. If the building in question was one of these buildings, it would not need two exit staircases.
14. In response, Mr LAM Siu-tong advised that he did not have ready information on the exact size of the supermarket and whether the building in question was a "single staircase building". However, under the 1996 MOE Code, supermarket of this nature was required to have two exit staircases. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Mr LAM advised that the premises concerned had been used as storage areas before and the relevant layout plan had been approved in the 1970s according to the standard and requirements of the then prevailing MOE Code. Mr Ronald ARCULLI pointed out that if the premises concerned had not been turned into a supermarket, or if only the ground floor (with total floor area less than 230 m²) had been turned into a supermarket, this case would not be covered by the Bill.
15. The Chairman asked for the criteria for adopting the threshold of 230 m² in the Bill. Mr LAM Chun-man advised that from the point of view of the FSD, if two floors of the same building were connected by an internal circulation staircase without fire resisting separation, a fire broke out on the ground floor would soon spread to the upper floor. In order to prevent the spread of fire, it was calculated that an automatic sprinkler system would be required for a total floor area exceeding 230 m². Mr CHEUNG Hau-wai considered it reasonable to apply this threshold.
16. The Chairman considered that as the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in the supermarket could serve the purpose of preventing the spread of fire, it might not be necessary to provide an additional exit staircase to the mezzanine floor as required by the BD. Mr LAM Siu-tong confirmed otherwise. He pointed out that fire safety measures included the following four aspects :
Under the jurisdiction of the FSD
- fire service installations and equipment;
Under the jurisdiction of the BD
- means of access for fire-fighting and rescue;
- means of escape in case of fire; and
- fire resisting construction.
Mr LAM considered that even though an automatic sprinkler system was installed in the supermarket, the owner concerned would still be required to comply with the requirements under items (b), (c) and (d) above. Otherwise, inadequate means of escape in case of fire could result in chaos where people might be stepped to death.
17. Members considered that as there were two enforcement authorities requiring different aspects of improvement works to be carried out, there should be a co-ordinator within the Administration to coordinate their requirements. Mrs Sarah KWOK advised that the three Codes of Practice governing the provision of the three items listed at paragraph 16(b) to (d) above were within the jurisdiction of the Planning, Environment and Lands (PEL) Branch. However, the application of the three Codes of Practice under the Bill was coordinated by the Security Branch. Mrs KWOK said she would consult the PEL Branch wherever necessary.
18. Mr Ronald ARCULLI asked whether the Administration had considered appointing only one enforcement authority to enforce this legislation. Mr LAM Chun-man considered that as fire safety measures involved four aspects listed at paragraph 16 above, it was difficult for the FSD to say whether the prescribed commercial premises had complied with the requirements of those items under the jurisdiction of the BD.
Department Store (Case No. 1 : FSD Ref. #17)
19. As there was one page missing from the relevant layout plan, the Chairman remarked that discussion on this case would be deferred to the next meeting when the missing page on the basement of the department store was available from the Administration.
Off-course Betting Centres (Cases No. 1 and 2)
20. Members noted the two cases presented in page 7 of the summary table.
III. Date of Next Meeting
21. The next meeting would be held on Tuesday, 12 November 1996 from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building.
IV. Close of Meeting
22. The meeting ended at 6:40 pm.
26 November 1996
*-- other commitments
Last Updated on 14 December 1998