FSD responds to Coroner’s verdict
The Coroner’s Court today (May 10) returned the verdict on the cause of death of two Fire Services Department (FSD) personnel during the fire-fighting operation of a No. 4 fire at Amoycan Industrial Centre (AIC) in June 2016. The FSD conveys its deepest condolences again to the family members of the brave deceased who lost their lives in the course of duty. The department will thoroughly study the recommendations in the verdict to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.
Immediately after the fire at AIC, the FSD established an Interdepartmental Fire Investigation Task Force to conduct an in-depth investigation into various aspects of the fire, including the cause of the fire, circumstances leading to the fatalities and injuries of staff members, and the usage and mode of operation of industrial buildings.
The Task Force subsequently made a number of recommendations to the department, covering various aspects including occupational safety and health (OSH), operational procedures, equipment and tools, and public education on fire safety. The department has implemented a series of improvement measures with a view to enhancing the safety and operational efficiency of frontline personnel. These measures include:
(1) On the operational front, the department has enhanced the operational procedures of breathing apparatus (BA), and established the Breathing Apparatus Support Team to provide logistical support in relation to BA operation at incidents. It has also introduced new BA ancillary equipment, such as the Firefighter Locator System and retractable BA personal lines, to facilitate rescue operations;
(2) On OSH, the FSD has implemented measures including improving the arrangement for rest areas at incidents, devising guidelines for members’ reference on the frontline work and rest schedules under hot or inclement weather, stepping up members’ training in respect of their awareness on heat-related illnesses and relevant preventive measures, and issuing Safety Alert Prevention of Heat Stroke and relevant reminders upon the issuance of the Very Hot Weather Warning signal;
(3) On public education on fire safety, the FSD established the Community Emergency Preparedness Division in 2018 to strengthen its promotion in the community the response capability in respect of emergency preparedness through educational and promotional activities.
In respect of fire safety in mini-storage premises, the FSD has been working closely with relevant departments to conduct inspections and take enforcement action in mini-storage premises throughout the territory since June 2016 to improve their safety level. As at April 30, the department had inspected 1,222 mini-storage premises and found a total of 3,222 common fire hazards in 959 target mini-storage premises. The department issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices (FHANs) to the operators concerned to require them to abate the fire hazards within specified periods of time. The department has also instigated prosecutions against 221 operators who failed to comply with FHANs.
On the other hand, the fire incident increased public concern over the fire safety in old industrial buildings, in particular those without the provision of an automatic sprinkler system. To upgrade the fire safety standards of old industrial buildings, the Fire Safety (Industrial Buildings) Ordinance was implemented on June 19, 2020. The Ordinance mandates that owners and occupiers of pre-1987 industrial buildings upgrade the provision of fire service installations and equipment and fire safety construction, as per the instructions of the Directors of the FSD and the Buildings Department. The fire safety standards of all premises inside the old industrial buildings, including mini-storage premises, are subject to the Ordinance and have to comply with the direction to carry out fire safety improvement works.
The FSD will continue to strive to enhance staff members’ safety and operational efficiency in incidents, strengthen public awareness on fire safety and improve the fire safety in mini-storage premises and old industrial buildings, in order to fulfil the prime mission of “Serving with courage, passion and commitment”.
SLW responds to incident in Children’s Residential Home
In response to the submission of an Independent Review Committee (IRC) review report by the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC) on its Children’s Residential Home (CRH), the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, today (January 26) said that the incident revealed severe deficiencies in extensive areas of the HKSPC, from daily operations, supervision to staff training of the CRH, breaching requirements of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) and falling short of public expectations.
The Government noted that the HKSPC had accepted the IRC’s recommendations and pledged to take a series of actions, including replacing members of the senior management and enhancing its corporate governance and daily supervision, with the commitment to rebuild public confidence. The SWD has demanded the HKSPC to implement all the recommendations as soon as possible, and will closely monitor the effectiveness of the measures after implementation in order to protect the well-being of children. Moreover, the SWD will continue to keep in view the outcome and recommendations of the IRC’s review on the HKSPC’s other services, as a basis to consider whether the organisation is still fit to provide SWD-subsidised services in future.
During the process of handling the incident, the Government has also identified room for improvement in the SWD’s regulatory mechanism. The SWD will adopt a risk-based approach, and enhance inspections with extended breadth and depth to ensure the child care service providers meet the service quality standard and statutory requirements, with effective internal control and monitoring mechanism in place.
“We will invite the Working Group on Children Protection of the Commission on Children to supervise a review on children welfare services, covering the residential child care and related services, with an aim to complete the review by March next year,” Dr Law said.
In addition, the Government will take forward the legislative work on a mandatory reporting mechanism for child abuse cases, under which practitioners in the professions subject to mandatory reporting obligations will receive appropriate training to enhance their capacity for early identification and handling of child abuse cases. The target is to introduce the bill into the Legislative Council (LegCo) in the first half of next year. The Government is also considering how to take forward the recommendations as set out in the Law Reform Commission’s report on causing or allowing the death or serious harm of a child or vulnerable adult published last September.
“The Government attaches great importance to protect the best interests of children and firmly believes that every child has a right to protection against harm and abuse. This requires the concerted efforts of the Government, related sectors as well as the entire community to work together to achieve this goal. Special tribute should be paid to various welfare organisations with children service units for their offer of assistance and essential helping hands by seconding or recommending personnel to deal with the untoward situation,” Dr Law said.
The Labour and Welfare Bureau is prepared to attend a special meeting of the LegCo Panel on Welfare Services to brief Members and harness collective wisdom and insights to improve welfare services for children.
REO responds to receipt of Introduction to Candidates of another geographical constituency by electors
In response to media reports today (December 3) on mailing of the Introduction to Candidates of another geographical constituency (GC) to electors of the New Territories North West GC, a spokesman for the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) confirmed that a report about the issue was received from an elector of the concerned GC.
The REO immediately looked into the matter upon being notified of the issue. On one hand, the REO checked with the contractor on whether it has followed the established procedure on lettershopping and mailing of the Introduction to Candidates. On the other hand, the REO also attempted to contact electors who reside in the same GC as the elector concerned to see if any similar cases are found. Initial investigation reviewed that human errors of the contractor in the procedure of lettershopping are found, therefore tens of electors were mistakenly mailed with Introduction to Candidates of another GC. At this stage, the REO is arranging to re-mail the correct Introduction to Candidates to the affected electors.
The REO apologises for the inconvenience caused to the affected electors. The REO will further strengthen its efforts to monitor the work of contractors to avoid recurrence of similar incident.
SFST responds to statement by US Securities and Exchange Commission
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a statement on December 2, 2021 which stated, inter alia, that Hong Kong historically has not worked with the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to allow its required inspections. In response to the statement, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, stressed today (December 3):
“We regret to see the US SEC in its statement on December 2, 2021 describes Hong Kong as a jurisdiction not having worked with the US PCAOB, which is unfair and ungrounded. Under Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory system on auditors, there are no restrictions preventing overseas regulators including PCAOB from inspecting auditors’ working papers located in Hong Kong, as evidenced by past examples of inspections performed by PCAOB on Hong Kong auditors. We urge the US SEC to correct its misleading statement.”