I am deeply saddened by the fatal accident related to the operation of a gondola in mid-June, which led to the death of two workers. As of the first half of 2022, our construction industry has witnessed eight fatal accidents, and nearly 70% of these cases were categorized as ‘falls from height”. This number exposed that there were insufficient preventive measures for protecting workers carrying out their duties at height. Our industry should urgently re-examine safety protocols for our colleagues working at height on construction sites. I urge everyone to take construction site safety seriously from now on, be responsible for ourselves and our families.
The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has been relentlessly advocating for the motto "Life First, Say No to Danger". The CIC is very concerned about the recent casualties. All stakeholders in the industry share equal responsibility to co-create a safe working environment and perform their respective duties. “Everyone is accountable to construction site safety", that’s the spirit we should uphold. It is imperative to protect the lives of our industry practitioners. One week after the fatal accident, the CIC held a free webinar on safe operation of gondolas with a goal to refresh our knowledge, increase our awareness on safety and prevent similar tragedy from happening again.
The "Safety for Suspended Working Platform (Gondola) Operation" webinar organised by the CIC was held on 20 June 2022. The Development Bureau, the Architectural Services Department, the Housing Authority, the Labour Department, the Hong Kong Professional Gondola Association Limited and the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies co-organised the event. Speakers shared their knowledge from various angles, ranging from regulatory agencies, owners, contractors, the construction industry and property management. They also called for relaying these safety-first messages to frontline staff onsite and implementing effective practices to minimize the possibility of accidents. Ir Dr. PANG Yat-pong, Chairperson of the Committee on Construction Safety of the CIC, pointed out that the management of the industry should integrate risk management and safety management into production, take adequate safety measures, educate frontline workers on ways to deal with dangerous situations and “Say No” to working in any unsafe environment. I support all these messages fully.
Over the years, the CIC’s Hong Kong Construction Industry Trade Testing Centre has been offering training courses for persons working on gondolas. Two courses are available for enrolment - "Training Course for Persons Working on Suspended Working Platforms" and "Revalidation Training Course for Persons Working on Suspended Working Platforms". The courses cover both theories and practical skills in operation safety of gondolas. The courses can strengthen and consolidate students’ mastery of the subject matter. Frontline personnel could avail the opportunity to refresh their memories and better protect themselves. With higher safety awareness and competency, they could avoid falling into victims of tragedies.
The Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC), located in Tseung Kwan O INNOPARK, is the flagship project of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park for the city’s re-industrialization. It is a world-class production base dedicated to advanced manufacturing. Its function is to promote high-end manufacturing, elevating "Hong Kong Innovation, Design and Manufacturing" to the next level. AMC‘s construction project is a role model for the collaboration between "Industry 4.0" and "Construction 2.0" in Hong Kong. We foresee that the close ties of the two industries will generate more synergies and benefits.
Gammon Construction, contractor of AMC, shared the experience of adopting the "Design for Safety Approach". Statistics showed that the method could enhance worker safety, improve efficiency and reduce labour costs. The AMC project used the Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach extensively, with more than 70% steel structure and electromechanical components prefabricated in the factories. The DfMA approach significantly reduced construction time and had a significant impact on this project which was under a tight working schedule. Assembling components in the factory could also save 30% of labour costs. Representative of the HKSTP pointed out that the application of a variety of advanced building technologies for AMC could serve as a precedent. He also emphasized that "safety means efficiency, you don't have to worry about work suspension due to casualties, or the potential troubles derived from legal disputes."
Over the years, CIC has been actively promoting innovation and emerging technologies to enhance safety. The Gammon Construction team also indicated that the following technologies are related to the improvement of safety:
BIM was applied to the entire building cycle of AMC. BIM 4D simulated installation steps, lifting and installation; its BIM Model outputs were very close to the real scenarios from concept stage to field operation. It allowed prior planning at high-risk locations, and applying relevant safety measures or innovative technologies early on, thus, improving the safety level overall.
Moreover, BIM could be deployed for logistics planning by simulating component delivery routes, estimating truck sizes and the width of narrow alleys at construction sites, therefore, ensuring smooth and safe transportation of materials. An artificial intelligence program could process the steps of simultaneously operating four tower cranes for lifting each construction piece. The programme could identify the optimum and time-saving solution out of several hundreds of possibilities. “Module Lifting by Machinery”, which was another practice carried out by a patented synchronous transport and installation system, reduced the danger of working at height and strain injury caused by manual lifting. With proper selection of suitable building materials, the need for working at height was lowered, such as using Precast Double-tee, scaffolds were not required for building the ceiling, and high-lift trucks were utilized for lifting and installation. The merit of this practice is reduction of work at height, such as working at temporary support and formwork erecting, and potential safety hazards are decreased.
The key elements of MiMEP are Offsite Manufacturing, Multi-trade Integration (Mi) and “Plug and Play”. Setting up flying factories at the construction site, plus component prefabrication and installation simulation in a controlled environment, both could streamline workflow and save onsite working time, the working environment is safer for workers. Thorough inspection of components are carried out in the factories in advance, which contributes to better quality and safety.
Mobile phones and tablets are used for capturing real-time construction site images, real images and virtual stereoscopic images are blended afterwards for visualizing the construction site environment. The technology enables workers to familiarize themselves with the construction site environment, working process and high-risk procedures remotely, hence, perform better due to their deeper understanding of the procedures.
During my visit to the Tseung Kwan O Desalination Plant earlier, a speaker in the briefing session said that with the adoption of multiple new technologies and innovations, the project recorded “Zero Accident at the Construction Site”.
The construction site of the Kam Sheung Road Station Superstructure Phase 1 Residential Project is another place I have gained many inspirations. The “Smart Construction Site Command Center” there was impressive. The site’s digital system is supported by Internet of Things (IoT), with multiple subsystems feeding data to the central system for data visualization. The system integrates and converts complex personnel and environmental information into intuitive and real-time charts, which can be easily retrieved in remote offices.
Transcendence Company Ltd under the China State Construction has developed a multi-function system. For example, the human resources management sub-system comes with a dashboard that displays information such as the total number of workers, age, gender, type of work, subcontractors, employee personal information, etc. This allows users to get the full picture at a glance. Workers aged over 60 will fall into the “special care group”, foremen are notified and rest time will be arranged in an appropriate way. With this kind of personalised arrangement taking into account the individual needs of the workers, site accidents will naturally go down.
In addition, the subsystems related to safety monitoring could carry out the functions of data collection, analysis, and early warning. The early warning function is particularly important. It would be too late if the system could only respond when workers are already in danger. The dashboard will display the following information: the number of employees on duty, the number of new employees, safety training videos, images of real-time supervision, alarms and inspection records. The copies of registration documents of workers have also been electronically stored in the system. This could facilitate inspection by foreman and safety officers via their mobile phones anytime, anywhere. In terms of epidemic prevention, the system will also collect and provide information such as the number of people tested negative for Covid-19, electronic health declaration forms from workers, their body temperatures, the use of the "LeaveHomeSafe" app before site entry and their vaccination records. With this information handy, building an anti-epidemic barrier is much easier at construction sites.
Smart hardware and video recording equipment can extend the functions of the system. When workers put on smart safety helmets with sensors, their real-time geolocations are spotted, the foreman can know the distribution and status of workers in each section. With high-definition camcorders and drones, the system could use artificial intelligence to quickly stitch images of different parts of the work sites. This could present a clear and detailed live feed, allowing supervisors to remotely monitor the work progress. Since it is inconvenient for workers to answer calls with their mobile phones when they are occupied by work, multiple loud speakers are installed on the construction site. The supervisors can use the broadcasting system to guide workers to avoid potential threats. Drones can monitor site conditions real-time at high-altitude and provide aerial views of the site.
A wide application of technology, continuous professional training, an increase in safety awareness and “Design for Safety” are all good practices that the construction industry should embrace. The following are examples of measures put in place at safe and well-managed construction sites:
I sincerely hope that each and every one of us in the construction industry can follow these practices, with more attempts on experiments and more investment in these areas. Let’s improve the standard of our industry, and work hand-in-hand towards the goal of "Zero Fatal Accidents and Zero Accidents".
Last Updated: 2022-07-04 18:07:04