The Administration's response to issues raised
at the meeting of the Bills Committee on the
Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Bill 1999
on 21 May 1999

Item (a) : Whether a worker who forgets to carry the certificate ("green card") for work will be allowed a reasonable period of time (say within 24 hours) to produce his certificate to the Labour Department officer?

The Administration considers it necessary to require the worker to carry the relevant certificate while at work so that the proprietor or the contractor responsible for the construction site will be able to inspect it at all times. However, we accept that since the proposed law allows him a defence of reasonable excuse for failing to produce the certificate, we shall propose to amend the Bill so that the certificate may be produced by the worker upon demand by an Occupational Safety Officer or within such reasonable time and at such reasonable place as required by the Officer.

Item (b): How the proposed Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation will apply to situations where there are three small companies each employing less than 50 employees, and all these staff are employed for construction work on the same construction site; and whether such companies or the construction site controller will be subject to any provisions in the Bill or the proposed Regulation?

If several sub-contractors each employing less than 50 workers work together on the same construction site and the aggregate number of their workers is 50 or more, the proposed Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation will apply to the main contractor(s) regarding the provision of a safety management system for the site and the establishment of a safety committee as appropriate. The Administration provided a similar advice to the Committee at its meeting on 30 March 1999.

Item (c) : The systems and experience in the United Kingdom and Singapore in enforcing similar safety management systems.

The Administration is collating information on these two countries which will be ready next week.

Item (d): Whether the Administration will consult the industry and the LegCo on the future Code of Practice and the timetable for introducing the Code of Practice?

The Administration is preparing the Code of Practice (CoP) in relation to the Safety Management Regulation and aims to have it ready for consultation with the industry within 6 months after the proposed Regulation is approved by the LegCo. We shall also send it to an appropriate forum of the LegCo to seek Members' views as part of this consultation process. We should be able to introduce the Code at the time when the Regulation is brought into effect if comments received are minor in nature and the Department of Justice finds the draft Code in order.

Item (e): Paragraph 16 of the Administration's response to the submissions says that the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation will be reviewed one year after the Regulation comes into force and may be extended to other establishments including the non-industrial sector - what are the categories of such establishments to be covered by the Regulation?

It is the long-term objective of the Administration to extend the Regulation to industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers. Some of the other establishments which may be included are hospitals and tertiary institutions.

Item (f): Paragraph 23 of the Administration's response to the submissions made by the 14 organizations - the Administration to provide survey results of the demand and supply of registered safety auditors in the first 6 - 12 months of implementation of the regulation.

The Administration has not undertaken any survey to gauge the demand and supply of registered safety auditors in the first 6 - 12 months of implementation of the regulation. However, we estimated that, to perform the audits of management systems implemented by establishments required by the proposed Safety Management Regulation, about 55 safety auditors would be required. This requirement is calculated as follows:

(a) Estimated number of undertakings required to perform safety audits 800
(b) Estimated number of safety audits required per year (construction sites should be audited once every 6 months and other establishments once every 12 months) 1,100
(c) Assuming that each safety audit takes 12 working days and each auditor performs 20 audits each year, number of auditors required 55

At present, there are 28 safety auditors accredited by the Occupational Safety and Health Council and about 225 persons have successfully completed the training in safety auditing. In the coming year, the two universities offering safety auditor training courses (i.e. the HK Polytechnic University and the City University of Hong Kong) will have a training capacity of about 100 persons. By the time when the regulation commences operation, we estimate that more than 300 persons will have obtained the relevant academic qualifications required for registration as safety auditors. Subject to sufficient experience and other requirements under the proposed regulation being met, they will be eligible for registration as safety auditors.

Item (g): Whether there is an alternative system to help small companies (less than 50 staff) to comply with the statutory requirements of a safety management system, since a large number of temporary staff have to be employed occasionally by construction or container handling companies to cope with large projects or pressure of work?

The Administration considers that smaller industrial undertakings which normally employing less than 50 staff but regularly requiring more temporary workers to work should also consider implementing a safety management system. However, if the sudden upsurge in the number of temporary workers has been due to unforeseen contingency or exceptional situations, we consider that there is a case to provide for a defence in the proposed Regulation and shall propose an amendment in this connection.

Item (h): Whether the Administration plans to include in the Code of Practice or the Regulation a definition of "imminent danger" and the mechanism to resolve disputes on the spot when workers refuse work on such grounds?

When formulating the code of practice under the new safety management Regulation, we will propose the criteria for determining the objective situations under which workers' safety and health may be subject to serious hazards, and set up a mechanism to deal with workers' refusal to work. We will certainly widely consult the employers and trade union representatives on the specific arrangements and details of the relevant code of practice. Our goal is to, under the premise of protecting the safety and health of workers, avoid any unnecessary labour disputes and strike a balance between the interests of employer and employee.

Education and Manpower Bureau
31 May 1999