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Occupational Safety and Health in Hong Kong

An employer owes a duty of care to its employees in the areas of occupational safety and health, under the common law and individual laws and regulations including the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap 509), the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap 59) and the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance (Cap 56).
 
The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap 509) (“OSHO”) provides for the safety and health of employees in both industrial and non-industrial workplaces. It is in summary, an enabling ordinance which sets out in general terms the requirements to create a safe and healthy workplace.
 
THE COVERAGE
 
OSHO covers almost all workplaces. In addition to factories, construction sites and catering establishments, other workplaces, such as offices, laboratories, shopping arcades, educational institutions also come under the ambit of the law. However, there are a few exceptions, namely:
 

  • an aircraft or vessel in a public place;
  • the place occupied by the driver of a land transport vehicle when it is in a public place (but other employees working in the vehicle are covered);
  • domestic premises at which only domestic servants are employed; and
  • places where only self-employed persons work.
 
THE ROLES OF THE DUTY HOLDERS 
 
Under OSHO, everyone has a role to play in creating a safe and healthy workplace.
 
Under Section 6 of the OSHO, employers should contribute to the safety and health in workplaces by:
 
  • providing and maintaining plant and work systems that do not endanger safety or health;
  • making arrangements to ensure safety and health in the use, handling, storage, or transportation of plant or substances;
  • providing all necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure safety and health;
  • providing and maintaining safe access to and egress from  workplaces; and
  • providing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
Under Section 8 of the OSHO, employees should also contribute to safety and health in the workplaces by:

 
  • taking care of the safety and health of others in the workplace; and
  • using any equipment or following any system or work practices that are provided by the employer.
 
Under Section 7 of the OSHO, occupiers of premises are responsible to ensure that:
  • the means of access to and egress from the premises; and
  • any plant or substances kept at the premises are safe.
 
EMPLOYER’S RESPONSIBILITY IN REPORTING A WORK-RELATED ACCIDENT
 
Under Section 13 of the OSHO, the person responsible (the employer/occupier) for the workplace is required by law to report to the Commissioner for Labour any work accident or specified occupational disease involving the employees. The report must be submitted in the appropriate form and within a specified time period.
 
An accident involving a death or serious bodily injury must be reported within 24 hours to an Occupational Safety Officer (“OSO”) of the Labour Department. Serious bodily injury includes any bodily injury that results in the person’s admission to a hospital or clinic for treatment or observation.
 
In case of incapacitation which prevents an employee from working for at least three days, employers should report in writing to an OSO within seven days of the date of the accident, unless notice of the accident has been given in accordance with Section 15 of the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance (Cap 282).
 
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH REGULATION
 
The Occupational Safety and Health Regulation (Cap 509A), made under the OSHO, sets down basic requirements for accident prevention, fire precautions, workplace environment control, hygiene at work, first aid, as well as  regulation of  manual handling operation. The main provisions of the Cap 509A are:
 
  • to prevent accidents by:
    - ensuring that the plant is properly designed, constructed and maintained and that all dangerous parts are effectively guarded;
    - ensuring that all dangerous areas are securely fenced;
 
  • to prevent fire by:
    - providing illuminated “EXIT” signs over all exits and clear directions to them;
    - keeping all means of escape in a safe condition and free from obstruction;
    - making sure that all exit doors can easily be opened from inside the workplace or are unlocked; and
    - providing suitable and adequate fire safety measures;
     
  •  to provide a safe and healthy work environment by:
    - keeping the workplace clean and ensuring that it is adequately lit and ventilated; and
    - providing adequate drainage;
     
  • to ensure hygiene by:
    - providing adequate lavatory and washing facilities, as well as an adequate supply of drinking water;
     
  • to provide first aid by:
    - keeping adequate first aid facilities on the premises and appointing designated employees to look after them;
     
  • to ensure safe manual handling operations by:
    - assessing and reviewing risks to the safety and health of employees who undertake manual handling operations; and
    - providing proper training and other necessary protective measures for employees who undertake manual handling operations. 
FACTORIES AND INDUSTRIAL UNDERTAKINGS ORDINANCE
 
The Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap 59) (“FIUO”) provides safety and health protection to workers in the industrial sector.
 
COVERAGE
 
The FIUO applies to industrial undertakings, i.e. factories, construction sites, catering establishments, cargo and container handling undertakings, repair workshops and other industrial workplaces.
 
GENERAL DUTIES
 
The FIUO imposes general duties on proprietors and persons employed at industrial undertakings to ensure safety and health at work.
 
Every proprietor should take care of the safety and health at work of all persons employed by him at an industrial undertaking by:
  • providing and maintaining plant and work systems that do not endanger safety or health;
  • making arrangement for ensuring safety and health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances;
  • providing all necessary information, instruction, training and supervision for ensuring safety and health;
  • providing and maintaining safe access to and egress from the workplaces; and
  • providing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
 
Every person employed at an industrial undertaking should also contribute to safety and health at work by:
  • taking care for the safety and health of himself and other persons at the workplace; and
  • using any equipment or following any system or work practices provided by the proprietor.
 
Notification of Workplaces
  • A person having the management and control of a factory or other industrial establishment (but excluding a construction site) should notify the Commissioner of Labour in a prescribed form (obtainable from various district offices of the Occupational Safety Operation Division) before commencement of operation.
  • Any subsequent changes in the particulars of the workplace , e.g. its name, location or the industrial processes, should also be notified to the Commissioner for Labour in a prescribed form (obtainable from various district offices of the Occupational Safety Operations Division).
  • A contractor should notify the Commissioner in writing within 7 days after commencement of any construction work under the Construction Sites (Safety) Regulations. 
BOILERS AND PRESSURE VESSELS ORDINANCE
 
Under the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance (Cap 56) (“BPVO”), sets out the provisions relating to the control, use and operation of boilers and pressure vessels and requires the use and operation of boilers and pressure vessels be registered with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority. The BPVO 
The Boilers and Pressure Vessels Division under the Labour Department is responsible for enforcing the BPVO to ensure safe operation of boilers and pressure vessels. Its major work includes:
 
  • registration of boilers and pressure vessels;
  • carrying out spot checks on pressure equipment in work sites;
  • conducting examinations and issuing certificate of competency to qualified candidates;
  • monitoring the courses for the training of competent persons;
  • promoting safe use of boilers and pressure vessels by issuing Codes of Practice and through activities such as holding seminars and exhibitions; and
  • providing technical support to the Fire Services Department. 

November 2015

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