Following is a question by the Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 12):
The registration arrangement for contractors introduced by the Government for minor works has been implemented since December 30, 2009. Some members of the trade pointed out that the Government was slow in vetting and approving applications for registration of minor works contractors. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the relevant experience of the electrical and mechanical professionals and technicians in the electrical and mechanical engineering professions will be recognised as the working experience required for attending the Technically Competent Person T1 Training Course organised by the Construction Industry Council Training Academy when they enrol in the course; if not, of the reasons for that;
(b) whether the qualifications of practitioners in electrical and mechanical works and those in the construction industry will similarly be recognised under the registration arrangement for contractors in the minor works control system; if not, of the reasons for that; and
(c) of the details of the existing procedures for registration of minor works contractors; whether the Government will consider reviewing the existing registration system again so as to further expedite the vetting and approving process to facilitate the smooth implementation of the minor works control system?
The "minor works control system" was implemented on December 31, 2010 after years of preparation. The simplified statutory requirements will help enhance the efficiency and flexibility in carrying out minor works, thereby promoting building safety in Hong Kong. To tie in with the implementation of the "minor works control system", the Buildings Department (BD) has made immense efforts in the past two years in areas such as registration of minor works contractors, training for practitioners and publicity and public education. As at December 31, 2010, a total of 2,796 minor works contractors were granted approval for registration, and over 14,000 persons have completed the training and top-up courses concerning the "minor works control system" provided by various institutions.
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) Currently, the BD requires the presence of technically competent persons (TCPs) when carrying out specified building works (including some Class I minor works items) to ensure site safety. TCPs are divided into five grades, of which T1 is the lowest. As TCPs are mainly responsible for work concerning site safety and quality supervision, they must have sufficient building works related working experience.
Generally speaking, for enrolment in the "TCP T1 training course", the Construction Industry Council Training Academy and the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education will determine whether an applicant satisfies the requirement of "having at least five years' actual site supervision experience" on the basis of his actual working experience. Therefore, whether the electrical and mechanical professionals and technicians currently working in the electrical and mechanical engineering professions meet the requirement depends on whether their actual working experience is related to site supervision. According to the BD's observations, many electrical and mechanical professionals and technicians have been engaged in work related to site supervision in the past, thereby meeting the enrolment requirements of the concerned course.
(b) In accordance with the Building (Minor Works) Regulation (Cap. 123 sub. leg. N) and the Practice Note for Registered Contractors issued by the BD, for any person wishing to be registered as a minor works contractor, the BD will consider the applicant's academic qualifications in the relevant fields and his actual work experience in building works. Simply put, regardless of whether the applicant is a practitioner in electrical and mechanical or construction fields, the application will be accepted as long as he has the relevant academic qualifications and experience.
Regarding qualifications, the BD accepts architecture, building studies, building surveying, civil engineering and structural engineering as relevant fields. If the application only involves carrying out Type E works under the "minor works control system", i.e. works related to structures for amenities such as minor works involving supporting structures for air-conditioners, water cooling towers and associated air ducts, then the applicant's academic qualifications will also be accepted if the same include those in building services engineering courses with building technology modules.
As for experience, applicants must possess experience related to building works and have carried out the types of minor works for which they have applied for registration.
For practitioners in electrical and mechanical as well as construction fields who possess the relevant experience but not the required academic qualifications, they can enrol in top-up courses for the qualifications they lack if they wish to apply for registration as minor works contractors. Specifically, electrical and mechanical professionals qualified as registered specialist contractors (ventilation works category) are only required to complete a one-day top-up course before they can apply for registration as Type E minor works contractors.
(c) Generally speaking, an application for registration as a registered minor works contractor involves two to three steps. Firstly, the applicant is required to submit the specified form to the BD, pay the prescribed application fee and provide the required documents, such as various documentary proofs and copies of certificates. The BD will then proceed with the preliminary vetting. Should there be any missing documents or non-compliances in the application, the BD will write to the applicant to ask for provision of the relevant documents as soon as possible. If necessary, staff of the BD may call or make an appointment with the applicant so as to assist him to prepare or fill in the required documents. At present, applicants for Class II and Class III minor works are normally not required to go through an interview procedure. For applicants who wish to register as a Class I registered minor works contractor, the BD will, in accordance with the Building (Minor Works) Regulation, refer them to the Minor Works Contractors Registration Committee for consideration and interviews. The Building Authority may accept or refuse an application based on the recommendation of the Committee.
In response to the concerns raised by Members and the industry on the progress of registration under the "minor works control system", the BD has implemented the following measures to assist practitioners in registration and to speed up the vetting process.
Under the existing regulations, the statutory processing time for applications submitted by individuals to register as Class III minor works contractors is three months. Nevertheless, to facilitate the implementation of the "minor works control system", the BD has undertaken that if all the supporting documents provided are in order and meet the registration requirements, all applications submitted by individuals by March 31, 2011 will be processed within one month. For applications by practitioners relying solely on experience, a subsidy on application fees will be provided to them if they submit their applications by the same date. Their application fees will be lowered from $305 to $155, the same as those applicants relying on academic qualifications. Regarding the training courses required for registration as Class III minor works contractors, the BD has been providing full subsidy on the courses since October 2009, and will extend this subsidy until October 2012. Also, the BD set up an information centre for minor works contractor registration on May 28, 2010, which holds three briefing sessions every week and answers enquiries from applicants. The BD has also reprioritised its work and deployed additional staff to expedite the processing of applications.
Ends/Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:11