Hong Kong labour chief vows to step up checks on construction sites, be tough on people who breach safety rules amid spate of industrial accidents

Hong Kong’s labour chief has vowed to step up checks on construction sites amid a spate of industrial accidents, saying authorities take the matter seriously and will be tough on offenders caught breaching safety regulations.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han on Sunday warned that the government was keeping a close eye on potential violations of laws or guidelines.

“Regarding the recent industrial accidents related to lifting operations, we will definitely investigate the matter seriously,” he said. “If any employers or workers are found to have violated occupational safety laws or practice guidelines, we will follow up firmly.”

Labour minister Chris Sun says that by stepping up checks, authorities hoped to remind people to strictly follow safety rules. Photo: Jonathan Wong

He made the comments after four workers were injured after being hit by falling metal rods at a public works site for the new Central Kowloon Route in Yau Ma Tei on Saturday, with a wire rope on a crane truck suspected to have snapped while making a delivery.

“If there has been a spike in certain types of accidents, such as lifting operations or working at height, then we will step up checks to target those sites.”

The most recent accident was the second in as many days, following an incident involving a 58-year-old worker who died at a construction site in Tung Chung on Friday afternoon after he was hit on the head by an aluminium sheet that fell during a lifting operation.

Saturday’s accident was the ninth involving lifting operations this year, resulting in six deaths. The construction industry has recorded at least 20 fatal industrial accidents this year.

4 Hong Kong construction workers injured by falling metal rods

Sun said that by stepping up checks, authorities hoped to remind people to strictly follow safety rules. “If we discover any violations of regulations, we will issue an immediate warning to the minor cases and institute prosecutions against serious offenders.”

Asked whether the government had failed to set an example for the construction industry because of the accident at the public works site, Sun said he would be in discussion with the Development Bureau to improve safety across the city.

“No matter whether it is for private or public works sites, the government has always attached great importance to safety,” he said. “We will keep in close contact with the Development Bureau and seek to enhance construction site safety, especially for public works.”

Sun also called on those who manage lifting operations to strictly follow practice guidelines to ensure workers were unharmed.

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“We’ll work with the industry to raise safety awareness among workers,” he said “To look after construction site safety, everyone needs to go one step further.”

The Construction Industry Council called on industry players to strengthen their safety measures for lifting operations, saying the recent accidents indicated normal requirements had not been fully implemented.

“The industry is urged to adhere to safety guidelines during construction and use the Smart Site Safety System,” the council said on Saturday, referring to a new digitised tracking system to improve safety. “Prior to work commencing, dynamic risk assessments and field control briefings should be conducted.”

The council said it would set up a committee to review existing operational standards and procedures with key industry stakeholders, including enhancing training and individual responsibilities, improving workers’ safety awareness and skill levels, and arranging site audits.

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