Date
21 July 2017
The bridge platform (inset) collapsed, killing two workers and injuring three others. The multi-billion-dollar bridge project has been plaged by accidents. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook/Chow Luen Kiu
The bridge platform (inset) collapsed, killing two workers and injuring three others. The multi-billion-dollar bridge project has been plaged by accidents. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook/Chow Luen Kiu

Deadly March bridge accident could have been avoided

A deadly accident in March on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macau Bridge was caused by a mistake by the contractor and could have been avoided, an investigation has shown.

The multi-billion-dollar project has been plagued by at least 10 fatalities and 170 injuries from accidents since construction began in 2011, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

One of the deadly incidents occurred in late March when two workers were killed and three others were injured.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Hong Kong Labour Party criticized the Labour Department and the contractor for failing to address safety issues at the site.

Labour Party representatives contacted several workers to look into the possible causes of the March incident.

They learned that the contractor made mistakes that could have led to the tragedies.

The accident occurred because the contractor had rushed the removal of a 40-ton work platform before the tide had subsided, party chair Suzanne Wu said, citing witnesses. 

That rendered the boat that was designated to take away the platform unstable and resulted in the collapse of a crane and the entire platform.

Wu said the three workers who were injured were not properly secured with individual harness, causing them to be dragged into the sea.

Another worker told HKEJ that the workers had not been notified by the contractor that they were removing the platform, and that the platform had been unsteady before they removed it.

Chan Kam-hong from the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims said the accident could have been avoided.

The incident showed that labor laws are no longer effective in protecting workers, he said.

Chan said that last year, the contractor was penalized HK$30,000 per incident, much lower than similar penalties elsewhere.

He urged the government to raise the bar, citing mainland companies which are penalized up to 80 percent of their income for safety breaches. There are no ceiling for penalties in the UK, Chan said.

Legislator Lau Siu-lai criticized the government’s tendering system for not upholding occupational safety.

The system is geared toward profit rather than the safety of workers, Lau said.

The Highways Department said it has set up a task force to look into the incident, with a report to expected in three months.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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