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LCQ4: Workers engaged in maintenance and repair works of lifts and escalators

Following is a question by the Hon Ip Wai-ming and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):

Question:

Will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the respective numbers of workers who were engaged in maintenance and repair works of lifts and escalators in each of the past three years, and among them, the respective numbers of persons who met the criteria stipulated in paragraphs (a) and (b) under the definition of "competent lift workers" in section 29A(4) of the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance, the respective numbers of persons who met the criteria stipulated in paragraphs (a) and (b) under the definition of "competent escalator workers" in the same provision, and the number of workers who did not meet those criteria;

(b)  whether it will amend the respective paragraphs (b) under the definitions of "competent lift workers" and "competent escalator workers" in the above provision to the effect that such competent workers who currently or used to meet the criteria under these paragraphs will still be considered as competent workers even when they are no longer employed directly by any registered contractor for lifts or escalators; if it will, of the legislative timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c)  given that section 6.3.1 of the Code of Practice for Safety at Work (Lift and Escalator) drawn up by the Labour Department stipulates that "as far as practicable, workers should not be allowed to work alone on lifts or escalators in premises", and clause 4.3.3 of the Code of Practice for Lift Works and Escalator Works drawn up by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department lists only two circumstances under which the works should be carried out by two or more lift workers, of the reasons for the difference between the two codes; whether it will draw up another standardized code of practice for safety at work on lifts and escalators, which will set out the number of competent persons required for each maintenance or repair process, so as to ensure that they will not be assigned by contractors to carry out relatively more dangerous work alone?

Reply:

President,

Before answering Hon IP Wai-ming's question about workers engaged in repair and maintenance works of escalators and lifts, I think it is necessary to explain first the difference between "competent escalator workers" and "competent lift workers" stipulated in paragraphs (a) and (b) in Section 29A(4) of the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance (Cap. 327) (hereinafter referred to as paragraphs (a) and (b)).

Under paragraph (a), "competent lift or escalator worker" means a person who is the holder of a certificate in mechanical or electrical or electronic or building services engineering, or who has completed a course relating to lifts or escalators at any technical institute or Vocational Training Centre, and has undergone such craft apprenticeship in lift or escalator works as is approved by the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services for a period, or an aggregate period, of not less than four years.

Under paragraph (b), "competent lift or escalator worker" means a person who has been in the employment, for a period, or an aggregate period, of not less than four years, of any registered contractor and is considered by the registered contractor by whom he is employed to carry out the works to have had sufficient experience or training in the lift or escalator works of that particular type so as to carry out such works competently without supervision.

Simply speaking, workers under paragraph (a) are those who have completed  formal and apprenticeship training and therefore their status of "competent worker" is permanent in nature, while workers under paragraph (b) are those who have not undergone any formal and apprenticeship training but their worker qualifications are recognized by the registered contractors who employ them.

My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a)  The numbers of "competent workers" over the past three years as reported by registered contractors are as follows:

In 2005, there were a total of 4,820 "competent workers", among whom 1,217 and 3,603 were workers under paragraphs (a) and (b) respectively, but there was no breakdown of the respective numbers of lift workers and escalator workers.

In 2006, there were a total of 4,405 "competent escalator workers", among whom 1,079 and 3,326 were workers under paragraphs (a) and (b) respectively; and there were 4,678 "competent lift workers", among whom 1,201 and 3,477 were workers under paragraphs (a) and (b) respectively.

In 2007, there were a total of 4,525 "competent escalator workers", among whom 1,069 and 3,456 were workers under paragraphs (a) and (b) respectively; and there were 4,825 "competent lift workers", among whom 1,214 and 3,611 were workers under paragraphs (a) and (b) respectively.

(b)  Hon IP is concerned about whether "competent workers" under paragraph (b) can have a more permanent status so that they will still be regarded as competent workers even when they are no longer employed directly by any registered lift or escalator contractor.  We agree that "competent workers" under paragraph (b) possess certain skills and knowledge.  The registered contractors also consider that they have sufficient experience or training to carry out competently the assigned lift or escalator works without supervision.  We treasure their knowledge and experience as well as appreciate their demands.  For this reason the Government has formulated a new mechanism whereby a top-up training course is provided to workers who have sufficient experience and have been recognised as "competent workers" under paragraph (b).  The training course will enable them to gain a more complete and updated knowledge in both theories and practice, and assist them to become workers under paragraph (a) with a permanent status.  The first class of the training course has already commenced and will be followed shortly by a second one.  We will consider the feedback of workers under paragraph (b) and effectiveness of the training programme as well as keep close contact with the industry in the process before deciding on enhancing the recognition mechanism for lift and escalator workers in the future.  At the present stage, we will not rule out the suggestion of amending the legislation concerned.  In further considering this subject, we will also take into account the correlation with the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance.

(c)  The Government attaches great importance to occupational safety.  Different departments have therefore drawn up safety regulations and guidelines as required to ensure the safety of the workers.

The purpose of the Code of Practice for Safety at Work (Lift and Escalator) (SWLE) issued by the Labour Department (LD) is to safeguard the safety of workers carrying out lifts and escalators works and recommend safe practices to employers or contractors to protect the safety of their employees engaging in lift and escalator works.

The Code of Practice for Lift Works and Escalator Works (LWEW) issued by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) aims at protecting the safety of the general public and users of lifts and escalators.  To ensure the safety of workers as well, the EMSD's LWEW also requires lift and escalator works to be carried out in accordance with the LD's SWLE.

To enhance the safety of lift users and lift workers, the EMSD, in consultation with the industry, stipulates in the LWEW that the following two types of lift works have to be carried out by two or more lift workers:

i)   releasing passengers trapped in a lift which stopped outside the unlocking zone; and

ii)  manually releasing the brake of the traction machine of an electric lift, or operating the manual emergency lowering or ascending device of a hydraulic lift.

To further improve and enhance the LWEW, the EMSD has discussed with the Union of Lift and Escalator Employees, two lift contractors associations as well as individual lift contractors, through an existing working group, on how safety measures in carrying out lift and escalator works can be improved.  At the working group meeting on November 24, 2008, the parties agreed to explore the possibility of mandating the frequencies and man-hours required for designated repair and maintenance works, and to review the types of lift works that have to be carried out by two or more workers, in order to further protect workers' safety.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Issued at HKT 13:00

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