LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1295/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration
Ref : CB1/BC/5/96

Bills Committee on
Occupational Safety and Health Bill

Minutes of meeting
held on Friday, 14 March 1997, at 4:30 p.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present:

    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka (Chairman)
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung

Members absent:

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP

Public officers atttending:

Mr Herman CHO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Deputy Commissioner for Labour
(Occupational Safety and Health)
Occupational Health Consultant
Labour Department
Chief Factory Inspector (Support Services)
Labour Department
Ms Phyllis KO
Senior Crown Counsel

Clerk in attendance:

Ms Estella CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4

Staff in attendance:

Mr Jonathan Daw
Consultant, Legal Service Division
Ms YUE Tin-po
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6 (Atg)

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting

[LegCo Papers No. CB(1) 1048 & 1049/96-97]

The minutes of the meetings on 24 and 28 January 1997 were confirmed.

II.Follow-up on outstanding issues regarding the principal Ordinance

[LegCo Papers No. CB(1) 1017, 1035 & 1072/96-97]

The Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) informed members of the following typing errors in the CSAs tabled:

  1. in the last line of clause 8(3) on page 3, ‘level 6’ should read ‘level 5’;
  2. in the first line of Schedule 3 on page 3, ‘item 17’ should read ‘item 16’; and
  3. in the second line of Schedule 3 on page 3, ‘"18. Section 17 Add-’ should read ‘"17. Section 17 Add-’.

(Post-meeting note: A revised version of the CSAs was circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1177/96-97 dated 2 April 1997.)

PAS/EM elaborated on the Administration’s response to the outstanding issues arising from the discussion on 25 February 1997, as contained in its letter dated 12 March 1997. The Administration accepted that workers working in vehicles in a public place, who were not the drivers nor the passengers, should be protected under the Bill. The CSAs tabled had proposed amendments to this effect.

PAS/EM also reported that the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) had met to consider the Bills Committee’s suggestion to amend clauses 6, 7 and 8 of the Bill and agreed that general duties provisions similar to those in the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (FIUO) should be included in the Bill. Furthermore, they considered a one-year grace period necessary for the introduction of the penalty clause for breach of the general duties provision by an employer, occupier of premises, and employee.

Referring to the CSAs tabled at the meeting, the Consultant/Legal Service (CON/LS) enquired whether there was any material difference in the general duties provisions between the FIUO and the Bill. The Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Dep C for L) confirmed that the spirit of the two ordinances in this respect was the same. CON/LS said that he would scrutinize the CSAs according to the policy stated.

Regarding the Administration’s original proposal of a one-year grace period for implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulation (OSHR), PAS/EM advised that after having considered members’ suggestion to shorten the period and consultation with LAB, the Administration proposed to shorten the grace period to six months for provisions related to the general safety and health protection of the workplace (i.e. Parts I to VI of the OSHR). On the provisions relating to manual handling operations (i.e. Part VII of the OSHR), a full 12 months was still considered necessary to allow sufficient time for preparation of guidelines and publicity programmes, and for parties concerned to familiarize themselves with the OSHR. Members agreed with the Administration’s proposed arrangement.

III.Occupational Safety and Health Regulation (OSHR)

Before members commenced scrutiny of the OSHR, the Administration advised that the provisions except those in Part VII of the OSHR also existed in the FIUO. The OSHR, which would set out specific standards for the working environment in general (e.g. the provision of adequate lighting) and regulate certain potentially hazardous processes (e.g. manual handling operations), equipment and substances used or kept in workplaces, would be made after enactment of the Bill. Codes of practice and guidance materials on compliance standards to prepare employers and employees of different trades for the new regulation would be implemented in subsequent stages.

Part I - Preliminary

Members had no specific comments on this part.

Part II - Accident Prevention

In response to the Chairman’s enquiry about the definition of "young persons" as stated in section 5(1), Dep C for L explained that this referred to persons of the age of 15 to 17 in accordance with the Employment Ordinance (Cap 57).

Part III - Fire Precautions

Regarding members’ concern about the ambiguities in the meaning of egress from the workplace in section 7(1) to (3), the Chief Factory Inspector/Support Services (CFI/SS) said that examples of different circumstances would be provided in the codes of practice for employers to enhance their understanding in this respect. He further explained that subsections (2) and (3) would not apply to small enclosed workplace like a kiosk with few persons working inside. CON/LS remarked that in any case the codes of practice should not reduce legal obligations under the OSHR. Members requested the Administration to re-examine section 7(1) to (3), with specific reference to the meanings of the following:


  1. "unlocked" and "fastened" (section 7(1));
  2. "kiosk or other small cubicle" (section 7(2)); and
  3. "conspicuously indicated" (section 7(3)).

Part IV - Workplace Environments

In response to the CON/LS on whether smoking had been considered in the context of section 12(3)(b), the Occupational Health Consultant (OHC) said that this had been considered and that effective exhaust devices such as effective air ventilators should be installed in areas of the workplace where smoking was permitted. As the policy intention with regard to smoking was not apparent in subsection (4)(b), members requested the Administration to review the wording of the subsection with respect to the policy implication on smoking.


Members opined that the Chinese version of "lighting" in respect of natural lighting as stated in section 13(1) might be interpreted to mean artificial lighting provided by using natural resources such as solar energy. Dep C for L agreed to review the wording.

Part V - Hygiene in Workplaces

Mr LEE Cheuk-yan enquired about the guidelines on the provisions of shared toilets for employees and customers in relation to section 15. Dep C for L replied that the Administration had adopted the same regulation as in the FIUO, which stipulated that shared toilets were acceptable. Concerning the ratio of the number of lavatories and washing facilities to the number of employees employed in a workplace, CFI/SS said that under the FIUO one water closet was required for 1 to 25 male employees, one urinal for 10 to 50 male employees and two water closets for 11 to 25 female employees. If less than 10 male employees were employed in a workplace, urinals did not have to be provided. Members considered that the Administration’s explanation had not been reflected appropriately in section 15, and requested the Administration to further review the matter.


Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung opined that the provision in section 16(1) was unclear as to the amount of potable water required to satisfy the needs of employees and would make enforcement difficult. The Administration undertook to revise the wording.


Part VI - First Aid in Workplaces

Members pointed out that the Chinese version of ".... is provided and maintained for each 100 employees, or part of that number ...." as contained in section 18(1)(a) was inappropriate, and should be amended to mean one to 100 employees. The Administration agreed to revise the wording.


Part VII - Manual Handling Operations

Referring to sections 23 to 25, Dr LEONG Che-hung re-iterated his suggestion that occupational health specialists should be employed as responsible persons to assess risks for manual handling operations in workplaces. OHC responded that it was impracticable to hire occupational health specialists to conduct these assessments as set out in the OSHR. Instead, employers and occupiers of premises as well as employees who were deployed by employers to take care of others should be responsible for making the assessment and for reducing risks on manual handling operations in workplaces under their control. Approved codes of practice, guidance materials and self-helpkits for major trades would be issued to responsible persons to encourage them to develop better safety measures for their operations. Dep C for L supplemented that as manual handling operations were common in workplaces, it would not be practicable to stipulate the employment of occupational health specialists in the OSHR.

The Chairman opined that it would be difficult for employers to comply with section 30(2), which stated that "an employer must not require or allow an employee of the employer to undertake a manual handling operation unless the employer has assessed that the employee is capable of performing the operation", and asked the Administration to review the provision with respect to its practicality.


CON/LS raised query on whether the definition of "workplace" would include public streets and requested the Administration to review the definition in the Bill and the OSHR to ensure that it was in line with the policies discussed so far.


Schedules 1 to 3 and Explanatory Note

Members had no specific comments on these schedules and the Explanatory Note.

IV.Date of next meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for 4 April 1997 at 10:30 am.

V. Any other business

The Chairman informed members of a recent submission from the Hong Kong Workers Health Centre, which responded to points raised by the Secretary for Education and Manpower in his letter to the deputation dated 3 March 1997. The Administration was asked to consider the deputation’s views and provide members with its comments before the next meeting.


(Post-meeting note: The Administration’s comments were circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1177/96-97 dated 2 April 1997.)

The meeting ended at 6:40 pm

Legislative Council Secretariat
15 April 1997

Last Updated 30 November 1998