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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

$10m safety penalty 'still not enough'

$10m safety penalty 'still not enough'

Raising the maximum fine for occupational safety breaches to HK$10 million is not enough, the Secretary of Labour, Chris Sun Yuk-han, said as he noted the latest bill passed by the legislature has to be implemented as a "combo" alongside advanced technologies and safety awareness promotions.
The third reading of the amendment bill, also proposing a two-year jail term to go with the fine, was passed by the Legislative Council on Wednesday night.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Sun said the work on enhancing occupational safety would never end.

He said it was not enough to simply raise the level of fines from HK$500,000 to HK$10 million and called for strengthening education and promoting safety awareness.

Sun said they earlier proposed raising the maximum penalty to HK$50 million and eventually the amount was reduced by 80 percent. But it was already the highest of all existing legislation in Hong Kong and had sufficient deterrent effect.

The time limit for initiating prosecution has been shortened from a year to nine months after consulting with the Department of Justice. Sun said the time was enough to collect evidence and lay charges.

As for families of deceased workers criticizing the government for not amending the law over the past 20 years, Sun replied that the legislation work covered many fields of society, and there were many small-and-medium enterprises in the city. The government had done its best, Sun added.

The bill will be published in the government gazette today and come into effect on Friday.

Siu Sin-man, chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, supported the amendment and described it as a milestone achievement.

But she was expecting more improvement in the Labour Department's inspection and supervision work.

She added that some contractors were often aware of the department's inspection beforehand, so officers could not learn of the actual situation on construction sites.

Siu also hoped the authorities would consider a two-year review after the implementation of the Ordinance, otherwise it would only repeat the same mistake, so that the Ordinance cannot keep pace with the times.

A widow of a construction accident victim said authorities should review the law every two to three years. She said the penalty of HK$10 million was certainly better than HK$500,000, but still "too little, too late," and two years' imprisonment was too short and not very effective.
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