LCQ6: Stepping up regulation of lift contractors and training for lift practitionersFollowing is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (March 20):
On the 2nd of this month, a lift in a building in North Point plunged from the first floor to the ground, injuring several passengers. It has been reported that the situation was very serious as all four suspension cables of the lift had snapped. As pointed out by some members of the trade, lift accidents have occurred from time to time in recent years, reflecting loopholes in the existing regulatory mechanism, and such accidents are also related to the shortage of manpower for lift repair and maintenance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the authorities will conduct a comprehensive review of the Registered Lift Contractors' Performance Rating Scheme and consider linking the Scheme to law enforcement work to enhance its effectiveness, e.g. revoking directly the licence of a contractor whose performance score is zero;
(b) whether it knows the number of registered lift contractors who had provided training to lift workers who newly joined the trade and the respective numbers of new entrants who had completed the training and those who stayed in the trade afterwards, in the past three years; and which institutions had provided training courses for such entrants and the respective numbers of entrants who had completed the courses and those who stayed in the trade afterwards; as the "Code of Practice for Lift Works and Escalator Works" stipulates that lift maintenance and repair works must be carried out by two or more lift workers together, and the number of storeys of new buildings has been increasing, whether the authorities have assessed if the number of trained workers can meet the demand; whether the authorities have any new measures to attract new blood to the trade; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) of the number of lifts inspected each month by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) at present; whether EMSD has conducted more frequent inspections and spot checks on lifts which are maintained and repaired by contractors with low ranking in performance rating; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Lifts and Escalators Ordinance (Ordinance), enacted in April 2012, came into full operation in December 2012. The Ordinance has introduced a series of enhanced regulatory measures against registered contractors. It clearly stipulates that registered contractors must ensure that their lift maintenance works are carried out properly and safely; increases the maximum fine from HK$10,000 to HK$200,000 with the maximum imprisonment period maintained at 12 months; introduces a registration renewal system under which registered contractors are required to renew their registration every five years; and empowers the Registrar to cancel or suspend the registration of registered contractors pursuant to the provisions of the Ordinance. On enforcement, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) conducts sample inspections on all lifts in Hong Kong on a risk-assessment basis to monitor the work of registered contractors. Furthermore, the EMSD implemented a Registered Lift Contractors Performance Rating Scheme (the Performance Rating Scheme) in June 2009 and published the performance ratings of registered contractors quarterly to help lift owners or their property management companies select suitable contractors to carry out maintenance and repair works for their lifts.
My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) Under the Performance Rating Scheme, the EMSD will deduct performance monitoring (PM) points of registered contractors according to an established mechanism for irregularities identified during inspections. Warning letters will be issued to relevant registered contractors under the following circumstances:
(i) where a total of 12 or more PM points are deducted for non-compliant items found in a single lift during inspection; or
(ii) where over 4 PM points are deducted on average within a 12-month period.
Registered contractors who have received a total of three warning letters may be subject to disciplinary hearings. Disciplinary action can include suspension of registration. Besides, the EMSD will take appropriate enforcement actions against registered contractors for non-compliances or disciplinary offences found in the course of inspections, including initiating prosecutions or requesting for setting up disciplinary boards to conduct disciplinary hearings.
The EMSD is carrying out a comprehensive review of the Performance Rating Scheme and its enforcement inspection system, with a view to enhancing its effectiveness in controlling the performance of contractors. The review includes considering to conduct more inspections for lifts maintained by registered contractors with relatively low performance ratings, and to conduct audit visits to these registered contractors to ascertain if they have the necessary facilities, resources and manpower to provide the level of service in compliance with the Ordinance.
(b) According to the information provided by registered contractors, 45 registered contractors have provided training to about 450 new entrants in the past three years. About 90% of them stayed in the trade after completing the necessary training needed to acquire the status of competent workers.
Further, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) has been conducting relevant apprentice courses to train new entrants for the industry. In the past three years, around 120 people joined the lift and escalator trade after completing the relevant courses.
As at February 2013, there are about 5 000 competent workers providing services to around 60 000 lifts and 8 200 escalators in Hong Kong. Although the works items requiring at least two workers working together has increased from 10 to 15 under the Code of Practice for Lift Works and Escalator Works (CoP) issued by EMSD in November 2012, we consider that this requirement has only minimal impact on manpower. The number of lifts increased only slightly by about 1% annually on average over the past several years and it would not cause too much pressure on the overall manpower demand. Notwithstanding these, we are implementing the following measures to attract new entrants to the trade:
(i) Enhancing the professional status of the workers
The registration regime for workers introduced under the Ordinance to replace the employer-tied arrangement, provides workers with more flexibility in choosing jobs and bargaining power in negotiating remuneration packages.
(ii) Strengthening training
Currently, the Construction Industry Council is deliberating with the Hong Kong Federation of Electrical and Mechanical Contractors, the Lift and Escalator Contractors Association and the VTC on ways to provide more training for the electrical and mechanical trade of the construction industry. To increase the manpower for the trade, they have agreed in principle to introduce the Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme for the electrical and mechanical trade of the construction industry and provide assistance to those trainees who intend to join the ranks of electrical and mechanical apprentices after completing VTC's basic craft courses in electrical and mechanical engineering.
(iii) Improving working conditions
The EMSD has been working from time to time with the trade and in the light of the latest developments in the industry to review and update the CoP with a view to enhancing the requirements on working conditions. For instance, the CoP has recently introduced a new provision that required contractors to assess and confirm that the environmental factors, such as temperature, ventilation, lightings, etc., inside the lift shaft are suitable before commencing works.
(c) At present, the EMSD conducts about 750 inspections on lifts and escalators a month on average. Since 2009, the EMSD has raised the ratio of spot checks from 1 in 10 to 1 in 7. It has also adopted a risk-based approach and accorded higher priority to the lifts maintained by contractors with poor performance, have long years of service or are of those models that have frequent breakdowns. To make our inspection work more focused, the Administration would consider factoring in flexibility and specific targets to the ratio of spot checks. For instance, the contractors or lifts that have the above-mentioned problems would be subject to more frequent inspections.
The EMSD obtained approval in 2010 to add a total of eight posts to its establishment. Before that, the EMSD had 15 staff to undertake the work of regulating lift and escalator safety. The manpower increased 53% in 2010 (including the ranks of engineers and inspectors) to enhance the regulation of lift and escalator safety. After the Ordinance has come into full operation, the EMSD continues to conduct audit inspections according to a risk-based approach and strictly enforce the provisions of the Ordinance. The Administration will also review from time to time the EMSD’s manpower situation to ensure that appropriate resources are allocated for the department to carry out law enforcement and public education work.
Ends/Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:23