Should Hong Kong have mandatory training and certification before people are allowed to go to work?

By HK Lawyer AJ Halkes Barrister-at-Law

Hong Kong Mid Levels Construction

Yet another workplace injury took place in Yau Mai Tei on Saturday, November 11th, that has again brought into focus construction site safety issues.  The process for selection of riggers involved in dealing with loads and cranes may have been involved, or overlooked, after four people were injured. A representative of a Hong Kong workers union was swiftly reported as saying “… tying up stuff to the crane is being done by anyone”  : that may prove to be somewhat correct.

However a certified construction worker system exists in Hong Kong via the “Green Card” (Web Link) so not just “anyone” can work on a construction site, yet this does not appear to extend to mandating that all and any rigging is done by qualified specialist riggers. However any statement that the accident was “outrageous” raises questions as to mandated “green card” training and how far it goes. There are also publications in relation to lifting operations and appliances and reading them is not difficult. Hong Kong does not however mandate that all those involved in the handling of all and any types of load be specifically qualified yet we are now seeing a rise in lifting and construction together with working at height being stepped up; Hong Kong is getting back to work.

The question becomes, is a code of practice or a guide sufficient and is it even being read by all workers who operate in that area? It’s hard to know how many workers have read the 2020 Lifting Safety Handbook (Link) let alone attended the seven hour training on Lifting & Rigging offered by the Occupational Safety & Health Council (Link).

Some responsible contractors do have systems of additional certification and mandated training for people to even be on sites, these see the company not simply relying on the industry certification by way of a “green card” but also investing in further training and instruction given before person is allowed to work. Even that may not however extend to rigging; as that’s already a seven hour course, and there is only so much specific training that can be added.

Interestingly, in relation to environments such as the food and beverage industry, safety within kitchens and industrial food production facilities, no “card” based training system is mandated for workers in relation to their safety in operating specialist equipment or types of machinery found in kitchens; much of which can be significantly dangerous. 

Perhaps it is time our risk filled environments were reviewed in more detail and basic mandatory training created to certify workers and ensure they are all aware of and well informed of the importance of safety in the workplace. 

This will become even more important as Hong Kong embarks on a new phase of importing labour; that will see thousands of new workers needing to be made fully aware of Hong Kong workplace safety laws, practices and procedures.

#WorkplaceSafety #GreenCardSystem #ConstructionSiteIssues #LiftingSafety #OccupationalHealth #MandatoryTraining #SafetyCertification #RiskManagement #HongKongWorkers #SafetyFirst #ImportedLabour