Two contractors suspended following fatal incident in Sha Tin

Yuen Wo Playground

23rd April 2024 – (Hong Kong) Two sewer maintenance workers lost their lives after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide in a manhole in Sha Tin, prompting the Hong Kong Development Bureau (DEVB) to suspend the contractors involved from bidding on public works.

The incident occurred late Monday night at Yuen Wo Playground where four workers were engaged in sewer cleaning operations using high-pressure water jets. It appears that the workers descended into the manhole, which was not originally required for their task. Emergency services were alerted around midnight, following reports of workers falling ill due to toxic gas inhalation.

While two workers, aged 23 and 35, managed to escape, two others, aged 26 and 34, were found unconscious. Despite the rapid response of firefighters who rescued the pair, they were later declared deceased at the Prince of Wales Hospital. The survivors received treatment at the same facility.

In response, the DEVB has taken immediate action by suspending Chiu Hing Construction & Transportation Company Limited and Yan Lee Construction Co Ltd from tendering for any new public works projects. This decision reflects the government’s stringent approach to enforcing safety standards, particularly in light of the fatal accident.

A spokesman for the DEVB stated, “The safety of workers on construction sites is of paramount importance to the Government. In light of the recent tragedy, we have suspended the involved contractors from bidding on public works contracts in the roads and drainage category.”

The suspension is part of a broader regulatory action which depends on the outcomes of an ongoing investigation into the incident. The contractors are required to undertake an independent safety audit and submit a detailed action plan for improving their safety measures. Only upon satisfactory completion of these steps and demonstration of a robust safety management system can the suspension be reconsidered.

The DEVB has made it clear that the current suspensions also apply to any ongoing but unresolved tender processes involving the contractors. This ensures that no further works will be commenced under their supervision until they have proven their compliance with safety regulations.

This incident highlights ongoing concerns regarding occupational safety and the enforcement of existing regulations within Hong Kong’s construction industry. It serves as a critical reminder of the need for continuous oversight and stringent safety protocols to protect workers from such preventable tragedies.

The government remains committed to thorough investigations and regulatory actions to ensure such incidents are not repeated. Further measures will be considered based on the findings of the ongoing inquiry, with the potential for more severe sanctions, including permanent removal from the List of Approved Contractors for Public Works.