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Ombudsman probes Government’s regulation of occupational safety and health in construction industry

29 September 2022

The Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, today (29 September) announced the launch of a direct investigation to examine the Government’s regulation of occupational safety and health (OSH) in the construction industry.

 

The current legislation regulating OSH mainly includes the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance, and their subsidiary regulations. On the enforcement front, the Labour Department (LD) inspects construction sites and takes regulatory actions to curb unsafe operations in the construction industry. The Buildings Department (BD) may, pursuant to the Buildings Ordinance, reject contractors’ applications for registration or take disciplinary actions against them based on whether a contractor has been convicted of an OSH offence.

 

As regards public works of the Government, the Development Bureau (DEVB) may, in accordance with the Contractor Management Handbook, take regulatory actions against contractors involved in serious incidents in works projects or against those who have violated site safety legislation. The actions can include suspending them from tendering for public works or even removing them from the lists of approved contractors. The DEVB has also put in place a tender evaluation mechanism to assess contractors’ past safety performance and accident rate in public works contracts. Contractors’ site safety performance will affect their chances of being awarded public works contracts.

 

The LD’s data shows that the construction industry recorded the largest number of fatal industrial accidents and the highest accident rate per 1,000 workers among all industries in 2021. There were 23 fatalities in total, which was a record high in the previous five years, with the number translating to a fatality rate of 0.218, which was five times that of all industries (i.e. 0.043). The accident rate per 1,000 workers in the construction industry was 29.5, nearly twice the rate of 15.2 in all industries. In May 2022, the LD submitted the Occupational Safety and Occupational Health Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2022 to the Legislative Council to increase the level of penalties in OSH legislation.

 

Ms Chiu said, “Fatal industrial accidents in construction works projects have occurred frequently in recent years, which is worrying. One life lost to an industrial accident is too many. While the Government is working on legislative amendments to increase the level of penalties, it is vitally important to have appropriate measures in place to prevent such accidents. Hence, I have decided to initiate a direct investigation to examine the Government’s regulation of occupational safety and health in the construction industry. Our investigation will cover the relevant departments’ inspections and enforcement actions regarding construction sites as well as minor renovations and maintenance works; the regulation of registered safety auditors and registered safety officers; follow-up actions on incidents; publicity and education; the registration and regulation of contractors and their bidding on public works contracts, and more. Where necessary, I will make recommendations for improvement to the Government.”

 

The Office will launch this direct investigation with the LD, the BD and the DEVB. The Ombudsman welcomes information and views from members of the public on this topic. Written submissions should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by 31 October 2022:

 

Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Email: complaints@ombudsman.hk

 

Office of The Ombudsman

 


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