Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance
(Chapter 59)

Shortcomings of the Existing Regulations

At present, the safety of persons working at height in construction sites is regulated by the provisions of Part VA of the Construction Sites (Safety) Regulations (the existing Regulations), which have been in force since 1983. These provisions set out the safety requirements in respect of scaffolds, working platforms and ladders, etc. They regulate a whole range of work situations involving people working at places where they may be exposed to the risk of falling from a considerable height.

2.The Administration considers that people working at height should, whenever possible, use a proper working platform. If this is not practicable, they should use a safety net as an alternative. It is only when this is again not practicable that they use a safety belt/harness.

3.However, the existing Regulations do not reflect this modern concept of risk management clearly. As a result, some contractors in the construction industry have opted for the cheaper method of providing workers with safety belts/harnesses in many situations of working at height as a safeguard. Furthermore, the existing Regulations are too complicated and difficult to understand, and contain too much technical detail.

4.There are also difficulties in taking enforcement action as the prosecution has to prove that it is practicable for contractors to comply with certain regulations, e.g. provision of a working platform.

The Proposal

5.Fall of persons is the main cause of serious accidents in the construction industry. It is therefore important that the existing Regulations should be amended, which is one of our Policy Commitments in 1997, to address the problem.

6.We propose to replace the existing Part VA of the existing Regulations by a new part in the Amendment Regulation, at the Annex, to -
  1. define working at height;

  2. define the safety standards to be achieved;

  3. spell out the legislative intention that, as far as possible, working at height (i.e. of two metres or more) should be kept to the minimum. Where it is necessary for workers to work at height, the contractor has to provide proper working platforms. If it is not practicable to do so, safety nets and safety belts/harnesses should be provided . It is only if this is again not practicable that safety belts/harnesses be used on their own; and

  4. require the contractor to show (in proceedings for an offence) that it is impracticable to use working platforms or safety nets. It is considered that this is reasonable because the contractor is in the best position to determine whether it is practicable or not to use working platforms or safety nets.
7.We further propose that the Amendment Regulation should provide for the substantive provisions only. The technical details should be set out in an approved code of practice so that future changes in the safety measures as a result of technological developments can be incorporated quickly into the code without recourse to amending the law.


8.The main provisions of the Amendment Regulation -
  1. set out the fundamental duty of the contractor to provide a safe working environment and to take adequate steps to prevent any worker from falling from a height of two metres or more (Regulations 38A and 38B);

  2. set out the required protective measures and proper working platforms for persons working at height (Regulations 38C and 38D);

  3. require a scaffold to be erected by trained workers under the supervision of a competent person (Regulation 38E); and

  4. require a scaffold to be inspected by a competent person before, inter alia, being taken into use or been substantially altered (Regulation 38F).
9.A new Third Schedule is also added to the existing Regulations to provide for the technical details of the new safety measures.


10.The Amendment Regulation will be introduced into the Legislative Council for approval on 14 October 1998.


11.We propose that the Amendment Regulation shall come into effect six months after enactment. This will allow time for the construction industry to be familiar with the safety standards relating to safety nets which have not been commonly used in Hong Kong.


12.As the cost for the provision of a proper working platform or safety net is relatively small compared to the contract sum, the proposed amendments are not expected to impose a heavy financial burden on contractors. In the case of bamboo scaffolds, the new requirements will entail a slightly higher cost at the erection stage, and require some technical adjustments of the construction method at the later stages. The reduction in accidents which the new provisions are expected to bring about will benefit the community at large in terms of reduced demand for medical services, compensation and social security payments. This will more than offset the increased compliance costs on the part of the contractors.


13.The Labour Advisory Board and its Committee on Industrial Safety and Health have been consulted and have given their support to the proposal.

Education and Manpower Bureau
September 1998