Council Meetings (Question): Industrial Accident (2017.05.17)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Chinese): President, the first four months of this year already saw 11 fatal industrial accidents, and this number is higher than that (i.e. nine cases) in the first half of last year. Regarding industrial accidents, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of fatal industrial accidents in each of the past five years, together with a breakdown by cause of accident (such as excessive fatigue of employees arising from meeting tight work schedule or insufficient manpower, employees lacking relevant training, and a lack of safety equipment in workplace);

(2) of the manpower establishment of the Task Force on Improving Work Injury Protection for Employees in High-risk Industries which was set up by the Government in February last year, as well as the measures recommended by the Task Force which have been implemented and the effectiveness of such measures;

(3) of the respective numbers of prosecutions instituted in each of the past five years against employers for holding them liable for industrial accidents and, among such cases, those in which the employers were convicted, as well as the penalties imposed in general and the highest penalties imposed; and

(4) whether the Government will consider increasing the penalty for employers who have been held liable for industrial accidents, such as disqualifying those contractors who have been involved in serious industrial accidents from, or suspending their eligibility for, bidding for public works contracts; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

SECRETARY FOR LABOUR AND WELFARE (in Chinese): President, my reply to the question raised by Mr CHAN Kin-por is as follows:

(1) In 2012 to 2016, the number of industrial fatalities is as follows:

The Labour Department (“LD”) investigates into each fatal industrial accident to identify its causes, ascertain the liability of the duty holders and initiate prosecutions. LD only compiles breakdown of industrial fatalities by types of accidents (e.g. “fall of person from height”, “contact with electricity or electric discharge”, “struck by falling object”) but does not keep statistics by causes of accidents in the way stated in the question.

(2) The Task Force on Improving Work Injury Protection for Employees in High-risk Industries (“TFWIP”) coordinated by LD examines and implements improvement measures relating to employees’ compensation insurance (“ECI”), compensation for work injuries and therapy/rehabilitation services, etc. Improvement measures implemented include: stepping up publicity and promotion of taking out adequate ECI coverage by employers, improving the arrangement of medical clearance for injured employees, organizing training on occupational medicine for medical professionals and staff of the Hospital Authority involved in work injury assessment, streamlining the preparatory work for work injury assessment, establishing a premium-adjustment mechanism for selected high-risk industries (including the repair, maintenance, alteration and addition sector and the recycling industry), and launching a dedicated web page on ECI for public access. The above improvement measures would help improve work injury protection for employees in high-risk industries. TFWIP comprises representatives of relevant bureaux/departments and public bodies, with supporting services provided by two Labour Officer grade staff of LD.

(3) In the past five years, the number of summonses issued to employers/contractors/proprietors in respect of industrial accidents and their fines are as follows:

(4) The Development Bureau expresses that following the established mechanism, the Government can take regulating actions according to the provisions as stipulated in the Contractor Management Handbook against a contractor, who is on the List of Approved Contractors for Public Works, if the contractor has performed poorly or has been involved in serious incidents in any public or private sector works contracts. The regulating actions may include issuing warning letters to the contractor concerned, requiring an independent safety audit, suspending the contractor from tendering public works contracts or even removing the contractor from the List of Approved Contractors for Public Works depending on the level of severity. The current regulating mechanism is considered effective and has served as a deterrent to contractors.

With a view to raising the deterrent effect of court penalties, LD has been adopting different approaches to impose heavier penalties upon duty holders. Such efforts include submitting comprehensive information to the Court for reference in sentencing, which covers the serious consequences arising from the accidents in question, the number of accidents concerned, and the highest penalty sentenced on similar cases in the past, etc; and depending on the circumstances of individual cases, requesting the Department of Justice (“DoJ”) to consider filing a review or an appeal to the Court in respect of the conviction and the penalty when necessary. With the implementation of the above mentioned measures, the fines imposed by the Court on convicted cases related to fatal industrial accidents in the construction industry have increased in recent years when compared to the past. LD will, in consultation with DoJ, review those provisions in relation to penalties under occupational safety and health legislation, and amend the law if necessary to further enhance the deterrent effect of penalties.

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