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Hong Kong begins naming health and safety offenders

The labour department of Hong Kong (LD) has begun publishing the names and details of building contractors convicted of health and safety offences.20 Dec 2018

The published list contains the names of companies convicted of breaches of certain occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations in the last two years, along with details of the offence and any sentence handed down. The information will be updated every three months.

Construction law and health and safety expert Alvin Ho of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the published information and statistics had not previously been publicly available.

"It is likely that the government is publishing this data now with the view to lobbying public support for its recent proposal to review the provisions and increase the penalties of OSH legislation," he said.

"This means that, going forward, in the event a contractor is convicted of safety offences the conviction will be known to the press and the public reasonably quickly. This will have an impact on contractors' approaches to health and safety prosecution. Contractors who have been simply pleading guilty to charges for the sake of convenience may want to review their strategy. It is expected that contractors will review their strategy in defending these proceedings," he said.

Contractors would also have to bear in mind that potential employers would have access to information that previously did not appear in the public domain, Ho said.

"When tendering for new contracts, whether public or private, contractors are required to self-disclose their conviction records," he said. "Now, the employers will be able to check the conviction records themselves without having to solely rely on the information made available by the contractors."

In a statement on its website, the LD said that publishing details of breaches would "help the relevant stakeholders and the public grasp the duty-holders' compliance conditions on OSH legislation".

The LD intends to publish details of breaches of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance (Cap. 56); the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59); and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509); as well as their subsidiary regulations.

Published information will include the names of the convicted companies; offence locations; dates of offence; regulations involved; brief descriptions of the offences; dates of judgment; and the sentence handed down. The LD will not publish the names of any convicted individuals, in compliance with data privacy legislation.