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International Conference on Construction Training

Title: Perception of Construction Professionals on Construction Safety and Imminent Need in Health and Safety Training in Hong Kong by Ir Albert W. K. KWOK & Dr. S.L. TANG 1. Introduction It is undeniable that the safety performance in the construction industry was unsatisfactory among the industries in Hong Kong (Ref. 1). Since 1986 the Hong Kong Government have forced the proprietors in the construction industry to employ their own safety officers by law to safeguard the safety and health of their employees working on site. However, engineering practitioners of different levels seem to have slim contribution on safety issues. They may be even indifferent to the poor working environment of the front line operatives on construction sites. Hence, a survey was carried out in 1995. The principal objective of this survey was to study the perception and consciousness of site safety of the professionals like architects, engineers and builders working in design offices and on sites. In the survey the engineers were encouraged to voice their expectation and duties in promoting construction safety. A review of the status of safety training related to construction professionals was also conducted. Recommendations are made at the end of the paper based on the results of the survey as well as the experience of the authors. 2. Methodology of the Survey In order to collect views from architectural and engineering professionals in different aspects about construction safety, a questionnaire was prepared and despatched to them both in design offices and on sites. The target groups were the members of HKIE, ICE, IStructE and CIOB, and other construction related professionals of consulting and construction companies. In conducting the survey, a mailing list of local practising construction professionals was prepared. The questionnaire was disseminated through several channels i.e. by hand, by mail and by fax. Due to limitation of addresses and time span available, about two hundred (200) copies of the questionnaire were sent out. A sample of it is shown in Appendix I. 3. 3.1 Analysis of Results and Findings The Demographic Profile According to the membership statistics in the annual report of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers 1994-95, there were about 4500 corporate professional members, which could be classified as in the construction discipline. In particular, the civil and structural engineers dominate about 85 % of the membership in this Group (Ref. 4). In the survey, 92 construction professionals responded to the questionnaires. Out of the 92 respondents, 70% were MHKIE, 54% MICE, and 25% MIStructE. The sample subjects in this survey agree with the pattern of distribution of the total engineer population in the local construction industry. They are shown in Fig. 1 to 3.

Fig. 1 Profile of the respondents - Position held

80% % of the respondents 64% 60% 40% 20% 0% Director Manager Senior Engineer Engineer Safety Engineer 13% 5% 11%


Fig. 2 Profile of the respondent - Professional institution affiliated

80% 60% 40% 25% 20% 5% 0% CIOB HKIE ICE IStructE Others 24% 70% 54% % of the respondents

(The percentages in Fig.2 do not add up to 100 because there are overlapping membership)

Fig. 3 Profile of the respondents - Working organisation

60% % of the respondents 40% 27% 20% 0% Consulting Contracting Govt. Dept. Utilities Co. /Developer etc. 17% 5% 50%


Safety Education Attainment

Among the respondents, there were about 27% of the subjects who had not attended any safety courses (even safety short courses). There were about one third of the professionals who had received their safety education by taking short courses organised by the Labour Department. Only a small number possessed certificates of safety supervisor or safety officer. It also showed that 40% of the safety qualification was only certificates of attendance. This reflected that construction professionals did not pay full attention to safety education. 3.2.1 Comparison on Safety Training w.r.t. different organisation backgrounds and positions It was interesting to find that the percentage of professionals who attended safety courses and were working in consulting firms was far more greater than those working in contracting firms. The government officials seemed to have a good chance in attending safety courses (Fig. 4 &5). Fig. 4 Comparison on safety training w.r.t. organization backgrounds
100% % distribution in each category 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Consulting Contracting Govt. Dept. Utilities/Developer. 19% 60% 40% 24% 81%

76% 60% 40%

Recieved Safety Training

Haven't recieved Safety Training.

Fig.5 Comparison on safety training courses attended w.r.t. respondents' organization backgrounds 50%
% distribution in each category 50% 40% 30% 20%
12% 18% 18% 6% 0% 0% 16% 13% 19% 25% 19% 47% 39% 34% 25% 25%


10% 0%

6% 3%





0% 0% 0%

Consulting HK PolyU Labour Dpt.

Contracting CITA OSHC

Govt. Dept. In-house

Utilities/Developer. Others None

Nearly all the engineers from the government departments attended in-house safety training courses. It seemed that the Government could more easily manage to allocate resources to organise in-house safety training for the employees. On the other hand, Figure 6 revealed that construction professionals at engineer level had a better chance to attend safety courses while about half of the professionals at senior level never attended any safety course. It is enlightening to see a positive sign of the Governments will on promotion of safety and that the younger generation of the engineers can acquire more safety education than their seniors who did not have that opportunity in the past. Fig. 6 Comparison of safety education w.r.t. respondents' positions held
100% % distribution in each category 83% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Director Manager Senior Engineer Engineer 40% 60% 67% 50% 50% 33% 17% 0% Safety Engineer 100%

Recieved Safety Training

Haven't recieved Safety Training


Perception on Causes of Accidents A high percentage of the subjects believed that the high accident rates on construction sites were due to careless attitude of workers and a lacking of safety knowledge of site personnel (the percentages were 72% and 75% respectively). Besides, they considered that the workers were in general short of safety training and safety culture (65% and 54% respectively), and that the management was short of safety commitment and culture (53% and 36% respectively).


Perception on Legislation of Safety As to the question on the degree of knowledge on safety regulations, only 46% of the respondents were confident to claim that they had knowledge of the current F&IU regulations regarding construction sites. Nearly half of the subjects did not know whether or not they had this knowledge or simply indicated that they had no such knowledge (Question B4). 48% could not tell if the current F&IU regulations were adequate to take care of the safety of the workers (Question B5). About a similar percentage of the subjects were not certain if the current F&IU Regulations were practicable and applicable to the local situation (Question B6). Over half of them agreed that competent persons responsible for safety examination work should be professional engineers and that safety personnel should have

substantial knowledge of construction technology (Questions B7 & B8). From the above findings, it was discovered that many construction professionals showed fairly minimal regard on the understanding of the statutory requirements in connection with industrial safety on site. Nevertheless, the existing industrial safety legislation places the legal responsibility mainly on contractors while professional engineers, particularly those not working on site; sometimes adopt an indifferent attitude. 4. Demanding Need for Safety Training In spite of the small sample size of the survey, some remarkable findings were obtained. All construction professionals that they have a common goal at improving the poor safety performance arrived at a consensus. Building a safety culture is an ultimate goal to be achieved across the whole construction industry in Hong Kong. However, it definitely takes time to cultivate. There is an imminent need to enhance safety training for both the practising engineers and the potential engineers in the universities. The culture of safety awareness is originated from safety education and training. The survey indicated that not too many engineers of senior level have received safety training. However, it is encouraging to see that young engineers can have a better chance to take safety training courses. Indeed, the employers and the Government should encourage young engineers to take safety training. The Professional Institution should consider safety training as a major subject for continuing education programmes for graduate engineers. In the long run it should be a mandatory one. 5. 5.1 Safety Training Programme for Practising Engineers Continuing professional development on safety Regarding the suggestions (Question B20) from respondents in the survey, emphasis must be placed on safety training. More safety training programmes should be offered to meet the current demand of the construction industry. Some topics are more demandable, such as Safety Management and Safety Audit. These topics can be incorporated in the continuing professional development programmes. However, engineers are generally interested in technical topics and pay less attention to non-engineering ones. Therefore, in parallel with technical meetings / conferences, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers should develop more safety training programmes for continuing education and encourage their members to attend such courses and make use of a Log Book to record those programmes which they have taken. 5.2 Safety Audit Training Course As to the Consultation paper on the Review of Industrial Safety in Hong Kong (1995), it was proposed that the Government would implement an Independent Safety Audit Scheme (ISAS) in the construction industry. The aim is to maintain and improve the occupational safety and health standards in Works Branch and Housing Authority sites. New clauses regarding implementation of the ISAS will be incorporated in the Special Condition of Contract and Particular Specification. A Practice Note will be issued. In the operation of the scheme, the Engineer/Architect representing the client in the contract will be responsible for justifying the payments for safety. His counterparts, the project manager and site engineers of the contractor, must also be highly involved in the auditing exercises. It implies that all construction professionals of different parties need to be equipped with adequate and competent safety audit knowledge to keep pace with the evolution. Hence, the local

education institutions should organise more part time postgraduate programmes in the area of safety and in particular safety audit to meet the demand. The preferred safety-training programme might have to include the following subject areas: Health & Safety Legislations in Hong Kong Risk Management Construction Safety Management - Safety Policy, Safety Committee etc. Formulation of Safety Plan Safety Audit - different audit systems; contractual aspects; role of engineers, contractors and auditors; implementation techniques


Safety Curriculum for Construction Students Safety commitment starts from top management, while cultivation of safety culture starts from colleges. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, for example, has contributed longterm on-going efforts in safety training. Currently, apart from the part-time safety course training safety officers, the University also provides safety-training programmes for full time students. During their time in the Industrial Centre of the University, engineering / construction students have to take 15 hours of industrial safety training. The training provides students with basic knowledge on health and safety at work including safety laws; construction site safety; use of personal protection equipment; electricity hazards; dust, noise and fire hazards & control etc. Definitely, there can be more topics to cover particularly when it is necessary to enhance the training contents to meet the current trend. To meet the growing demand for industrial safety training, which has arisen from an increased awareness of the importance of health & safety, a new training programme, is proposed. It will be a compulsory subject for construction students in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Its emphasis is placed upon safety awareness and the engineering / management issues associated with construction safety. It will provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they would be able to apply suitable methodologies to determine / eliminate risks in relevant practical situations. Proposed curriculum of the new safety-training programme in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University: i. Overview - Introduction to construction safety. Professional responsibility. Historical background and current perspective. Construction safety practices in other developed countries. Governments policy in industrial safety. Safety and health law in Hong Kong. Accident Statistics in local construction industry. ii. Occupational Health Practice - Related statutory requirements and regulations. Dust hazards and control. Noise assessment and control measures. Hearing conservation. Respiratory protection. iii. Construction Safety - Construction sites (Safety) Regulations. Codes of practice. Potential hazards and risks associated with construction sites. Working in confined space, at height and in high-risk construction activities. Case studies. iv. Safety Technology - Principles of risk & loss control. Engineering control measures. First aids. House-keeping. Manual lifting. Fire safety. Electrical hazards. Machinery safety. Personal protection equipment (PPE). Machine guarding. Needs for preventive maintenance. Case studies.

v. Accident Prevention - Principles of accident prevention - e.g. Causation models. Job safety analysis. Fault tree analysis. Accident reporting procedures. Follow-up actions. vi. Construction Safety Management Issues - Management and employee responsibilities. Safety policy and safety plans. Safety committee. Safety officers. Safety inspection. Safety audits. Safety operation procedures. Safety training for employees. Selection and control of subcontractor. Emergency plan. 7. Safety Training through computer network - Internet Internet is becoming the most powerful medium in the modern world of communication. The new technology performs the task of sharing information by means of connecting computer networks globally. Training of health and safety involves continuous updating of information and retrieval of data. Internet is indeed a virtual world-wide library by which safety practitioners, practising engineers and students can easily access to any safety information internationally. There is endless number of opportunities to develop professional development programmes including safety issues through computer networks. Actually, distance learning education and electronic teaching programmes has been widely operated in the developed countries. 8. Conclusion Engineers should be more involved and take an active part in minimising site accidents. Most of the construction professionals agree that management should be responsible for accidents and that safety at work is an important element of management. It is vital to incorporate safety in organisation policy and company management. A new set of F&IU (Safety Management) Regulations will be added to the existing F&IU Ordinance in the near future. It implies that a higher level of legal liability will be posed onto construction professionals. Engineers should be self-equipped to face the coming challenge. They should continuously develop themselves and catch up with up-to-date safety knowledge. On the other hand, the curricula of construction studies in tertiary education should be reviewed and should be able to cultivate safety culture in the long run. Lastly, it is the authors earnest wish to see Hong Kong Health and Safety Web Site on international network very soon. 9. Remarks Readers may observe that the questionnaire covers more areas than those discussed in this paper. Since only safety training is one of the main themes of this CITA conference, survey results other than this area are not discussed in the paper. Readers who are interested in the other survey results may refer directly to Ref. 5. 10. 1.
2. 3. 4.

Secretary for Education and Manpower of Hong Kong Government, Consultation paper on the Review of Industrial Safety in Hong Kong, 1995 (Education and Manpower Branch of Hong Kong Government) Levitt R.E. & N.M. Samelson, Construction Safety Management, 1987 (McGraw-Hill) Glendon I. & Eugene F. McKenna, Human Safety and Risk Management, 1995 (Chapman & Hall) 1994-1995 Annual Report of The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers


Kwok W.K., A Study on the Perceptions of Professional Engineers on Industrial Safety in the Construction Industry in Hong Kong, MSc Dissertation, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (1996)

Appendix I

Sample of questionnaires

QUESTIONNAIRE ON SAFETY ATTITUDE To : Industrial Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Attn: Albert Kwok) Fax No. 23344634 This questionnaire is designed to establish your views about safety and what you feel should be incorporated to reduce accidents and improve safety behaviour in the construction industry. In Part A please tick the appropriate box(es) and elaborate if applicable. A1. Your position in your organisation _________________________________________________________________________________ A2. Which professional institution(s) do you affiliated with? [] HKIE [] ICE [] ISTRUCTE [] CIOB [] RICS [] Others_______________ A3. What nature is your organisation? [] Consulting [] Contracting [] Government [] Developer [] Others______________ A4. What is the size of your company (No. of employees) ? [] <100 [] 101-200 [] 201-500 [] over 500 A5. Where is your work place ? [] Office [] Construction site [] Site/office [] Others_____________ A6. Did you ever attend safety courses, if yes state where did you receive the training ? [] HK Poly. [] Labour Dept. [] CITA [] OSHC [] In-house [] Others____________ [] None A7. What are the qualifications and backgrounds of safety you have achieved ? [] Cert. of attendance [] Cert. of safety supervisor [] Cert. of SO [] Dip./Deg. in safety [] Others___________ A8. High accidents rates on construction site are due to [] Lack of legislation [] Lack of safety knowledge [] High staff turnover [] Careless worker attitudes [] Others A9. The major reasons of accident on site are that the management are short of : Safety ..... [] Employ of Safety Officer [] Commitment [] Trade culture [] Policy [] Training A10. The major reasons of accidents on site are that the workers are short of : Safety .....

[] Equipment [] Training [] Working instruction [] Trade culture [] Motivation A11. The following component(s) has/have been established or achieved in your organisation. [] Safety Policy [] Safety Committee [] Safety Manual [] QA system [] ISO 9000 certification A12. In your opinion, who should be responsible for industrial accidents during construction on site ? [] Worker [] Safety Officer [] Management [] Government [] Engineers [] Others_____________ A13. Which types of accident happen on site do you consider engineer might be responsible for : [] Fall of passenger carriage hoist [] Collapse of demolition [] Collapse of canopy [] Failure of bamboo scaffold [] Fall of material hoist [] Failure of excavating slope [] Fall of person from height [] Others______ A14. What is your suggested expense in safety management in terms of contract cost in a construction project? [] 0.5% [] 1% [] 2-3% [] >3% [] Depends A15. What would be your response if there were a serious accident happened in your responsible site? [] Stop work until the risk of accident cleared [] continue work & study the cause [] find out who to be responsible [] review the construction procedures w.r.t. safety [] no action to take [] Others__________ A16. In your last visit to site, you might easily identify some potential hazards around, please state some cases below: Appendix I Sample of questionnaires (Cont.) Appendix I...(Contd)

In part B please tick the appropriate item that you Strongly Agree (SA), AGree (AG), DisAgree (DA), Strongly Disagree (SD), Don't Know (DK) the statements as below. There are no correct answer, the best answers are that honestly reflect your feelings. B1. Responsibility for safety and health is only confined to construction work on site. B2. The main cause of accidents on site is that the workers are lack of safety knowledge. B3. Designers carry both a moral responsibility and a duty of care for building/demolition workers and public in general. B4. You have knowledge of the current F&IU Regulations regarding construction site. B5. The current F&IU Regulations are adequate to take care of safety of workers on site. B6. The current F&IU Regulations are practicable and applicable to the local const. sites. SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK

B7. The competent persons responsible for the examination works as stated in the F&IU regulations should be clearly defined and preferably professional engineers and registered. SA AG DA SD DK B8. Safety personnel should have substantial knowledge of construction technology. B9. Construction professionals should play more active roles in sustaining const. safety. B10. Design engineer should be responsible for buildability and safe construction working procedures of the structures to be built subsequently by workers on site. B11. Design engineer should have regular site visits to ensure safe construction as specified. SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK

B12. Safety of scaffolding, temporary supports, lifting gears should be certified and endorsed by chartered engineer of relevant profession. SA AG DA SD DK B13. Implementation of Total Quality Management in the construction industry can reduce accidents. B14. Professional Institutions should include subject of safety in the membership entry examination. SA AG DA SD DK SA AG DA SD DK

B15. Construction professionals should form an alliance to share experience and set code of practice to promote and assure safety on site. SA AG DA SD DK

B16. The safety performance of the site should be incorporated in the performance appraisal of all site staff including middle and senior management. SA AG DA SD DK B17. It is helpful to introduce Safety Regulations of China to local construction industry. SA AG DA SD DK

B18. The government should set up a construction safety council with members from constructional professionals to study strategy and establish common safety working practices in the construction industry. SA AG DA SD DK B19. Construction professionals can contribute to cultivate safety culture in the industry. SA AG DA SD DK

B20. In response to Question B19 or any other suggestions on safety promotion, you would suggest : ______________________________________________________________________________________ (Last page of the paper)