President's Message

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Dear members

 

7 September 2022 is a day we engineers will always remember. On this day, an industrial incident occurred and caused the death of three dedicated individuals and injured six others. Two of the casualties — one deceased, the other still in the hospital — are our members, our treasured colleagues. Feeling sad as everyone, I appealed to colleagues and friends to make a one-minute mourning on 9 September 2022 to express condolences to the victims and wish for speedy recovery to all injured, and raise funds to support the concerned families to help ease their burden. The HKIE also deployed our Benevolent Funds to help our members’ families. Yet, even when burdened with the sad facts that the news has been feeding us, we must, as hard as it is, give some thought to how we can create a world where incidents like this no longer happen.


The tower crane at the construction site on Anderson Road in Sau Mau Ping fell from height and crashed down on the containers, trapping workers and site personnel inside. While the cause of the incident is yet to be found out by the authority through detailed investigation, let’s leave speculations aside and entrust the discovery of truth behind to the investigators. It is worth all of us spending a few moments to reflect the role and responsibilities we engineers play on various activities going on in Hong Kong and elsewhere everyday.


God creates the universe that exists; while engineers create a world that never was. We engineers innovate, plan, design, build/manufacture, maintain/operate all the daily needs of our society; ranging from clothes to housing, transportation to water/electricity supplies, mobile phones to cooking appliances, etc. All are vital to support the daily living of our citizens. There is thus no reason why we should not feel proud of ourselves. I mentioned in my inauguration speech and last President message: what we do is right at the heart of society's advancement. But it is always these extremely rare and unfortunate incidents that tarnish our profession’s reputation. We must face up this problem squarely.


As a civil engineer, I remember the role of us is to direct the great power of nature for the benefit of mankind. While delivering this duty, on these safety matters, my recollection of our role and responsibilities premises on the prime objective of protecting the lives and property of our citizens; no matter in the final product or during construction. It means we are also duty-bound to protect the lives and property of every single member of our team, certainly workers included. We must therefore "deliver our services to community professionally and with heartiness and diligence" in order to make our "telling good engineering stories" more convincing. I thus firstly appeal to all our fellow members to refresh and reiterate our fundamental role and responsibilities whenever we discharge our professional services, under whatever tight programme, budget, resource limitation or environment. There is no room to compromise on safety requirements. Every single signature from a professional engineer carries weight. We must uphold our professional ethics!


Secondly, to face up the above crane incident squarely, the Institution assures the public of our professional conduct by promising to take the matter seriously if any members are proven to have conducted themselves unprofessionally in the incident. We will use our utmost endeavours to proceed with disciplinary actions soonest possible in accordance with our Constitution and Disciplinary Regulations. We must address those rotten apples that tarnished the whole profession.


Thirdly, let’s review again what we can do within our power to ensure safe working conditions on every site. This is vital and must not be taken lightly. According to statistics on occupational safety and health from the Labour Department, though the total number of industrial accidents in the construction industry showed a general decline in the past decades1, the number of fatal cases has shown a disconcertingly steady increase since 20182. There are indeed fewer accidents overall, but more fatalities. No matter how one wishes to interpret these facts, they should always remind us of the salutary thought that “one industrial accident is always one too many”. The latest incident and the above accident statistics ring the alarm for construction safety and we should once again remind ourselves to never compromise our professionalism and safety for whatever sake. As conscientious professionals, we should always make safety our priority.


The gold standard to equip ourselves is to revisit the “Construction Site (Safety) Regulations” and other related regulations and guidelines issued by the Labour Department from time to time, which sets out the best practice for contractors, subcontractors, and employers. Of even greater interest to those whose work involves the operation of tower cranes is the CIC’s “Guidelines on the Safety of Tower Cranes”. It is my wish, as President of the HKIE, that all the relevant parties familiarise themselves with these documents.


We have every reason to be saddened by the tragedy. Nevertheless, our community needs engineering professionals to remain resolutely in their positions and persist in honouring their obligations. It is and will be difficult for us, but remember we are all in this together.

 

Ir Aaron BOK Kwok-ming
President
The HKIE

 

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