Safety comes first in maintenance

City talk | Terence Chang 14 Jun 2018

It was almost evening when I arrived at the Shun Hing Centre in Kwai Chung to meet Shun Hing Group chairman David Mong Tak-yeung.

Mong had been busy for the whole day introducing the "design for safety and maintainability" concept to people in an event to promote safety in the maintenance of building outer walls.

Mong, chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Electrical Appliances Merchants Association, was hosting the event together with a few related trade bodies.

Though we are building residents, we are layman when it comes to the maintenance work of the building outer walls in which we have only limited knowledge.

I only know that when maintaining air conditioners or pipes, scaffolding has to be erected and workers have to use gondolas to reach the facilities.

The work can be quite dangerous, and workers may be risking their lives despite having safety facilities, and could run into many difficulties too.

Mong said: "We have been making safety proposals regarding building wall maintenance works, but the government has so far only issued guidelines and hasn't made laws. As a result, many building are sacrificing safety for design aesthetics, and have not made maintenance work on outer walls easy and safe.

"But it is practically an issue of life and death. When it comes to the safety of the workers, we cannot afford to be indifferent," he said.

Mong showed me a model to explain safe building design.

"Many people have the misconception that improving safety measures would take up space and increase costs. In fact, the area of the ledges for placing air conditioners and pipes can remain unchanged. We only need to rearrange the facilities to create standing space for workers when they perform maintenance work.

"Installing safety harness hooks on the walls will enhance safety. Increasing the size of windows would make it easier for workers to access the outside ledge, so it would be safer for workers to bring their equipment outside."

I can see from the model that the anchors for safety belts can be concealed in a building's outer wall without affecting its looks. Also, these fixtures would not pose any structural issues as they are "within" the building.

After listening to Mong, I realized that these maintenance safety issues can be resolved so long as appropriate preparations are made as the building is constructed.

Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School.

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