Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
It has been yet another unsettling year, fraught with chilling industrial accidents. A suspended working platform plunged 20 stories and claimed the lives of 2 workers; a massive TV panel left a dancer in critical condition after crashing onto him during a performance at the HK Coliseum; 3 workers died and 6 injured by the collapsed tower crane, and the list goes on.
Among the victims were a father of two or the only child of a single mother. Recalling their precious lives in ice-cold figures has always leave me in distress.
“Why have there been so many fatal accidents recently?” some asked. The disturbing truth is that, fatal industrial accidents are not a new phenomenon, and the number of industrial accidents gone unnoticed and untold is beyond our imagination.
What worries me the most is, not only the number of industrial accidents has risen steadily, but also their severity and the resulting casualty. In every seemingly ordinary year, 200 workers were away from us.
One death or injury is too many.
Public awareness about industrial accidents has particularly increased after the Mirror concert accident, which forced the government to act quickly by establishing an interdepartmental investigation task force. Nonetheless, other victims of industrial accidents seldom received similar treatment. “It’s under investigation” has always been the standard excuse before victims hear again from authorities after months or even years of waiting, then they remained entrenched in several more years of legal battle before justice served.
We must remain attentive to issues regarding occupational safety and industrial accidents, and we must never let their lives lost in darkness.
The question remains: How do we put an end to the recurring episodes of tragedies?
While it is true that no two industrial accidents are the same, two major shortfalls in the following have always accompanied the tragedies:
The first is that risk assessments were usually not taken seriously. Risk assessment has become the standard procedure for virtually every industry, but how it is usually performed is another issue. In most scenarios, we find that if risk assessments were conducted seriously, these industrial accidents would not have taken place.
Risk assessment must therefore not be treated merely as burdensome paperwork, but instead as a prerequisite to every safe operation, regardless of their complexity.
If everyone fulfill their duty in performing every risk assessment, there will surely be no more victims and tears.
Secondly, we argue that loopholes remain in our safety education scheme. Nowadays, our safety education is targeted mainly on frontline workers. Frontline workers should not be the only stakeholders responsible for occupational safety. Company executives, engineers, and consultants are also more intelligible and resourceful, and are therefore indispensable and responsible in fostering a culture that prioritize workplace safety.
Recently, the Legislative Council is reviewing the penalties of Occupational Safety and Health Legislation. Since its introduction, the legislation has been ineffective in deterring occupational safety negligence, as most offenders were simply fined for a small sum upon conviction. While the proposed amendment by the Labour Department has suggested to raise the maximum fine from $500,000 and $10,000,000 and extend the prosecution timeframe from 6 months to 1 year, the amendment was regrettably met with resistance in the chamber. We cordially invite our fellow lawmakers to promptly allow for the passage of the amendment to not only deter the acts of occupational safety negligence, but also to serve the justice that victims of industrial accidents deserved.
Tt the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, we are dedicated to provide support to victims of industrial accidents and their families, help them fight for their rights and also facilitate their rehabilitation. The nature of our job may leave us in sadness, but thanks to the relentless support from the public, we will persist in our duty in helping the victims and the families of the deceased in need. I hereby express my sincerest gratitude to my fellow colleagues for your passion and devotion, while sometimes simultaneously having to raise fund for those with special needs, which has always been an uphill battle. For four decades, we have been fighting along with our fellow workers and we will persist in honoring our mission.
I hope that we will see each other in the coming flag-selling activity on 10th December. Hope everyone will support us. Here’s Rubberband’s 夥伴 – I want to you know that we’re together. Please enjoy.
I am Elane Siu, currently a Home Care Nurse at the Jockey Club Home for Hospice in Shatin. As someone who has worked in geriatric and palliative care for over 20 years, I have noticed an overall shift in recent years. In the past, it was widely accepted that the hospital was the final stop for the terminally ill in Hong Kong. Interestingly, since the start of the pandemic, I have had more and more people ask me the same question - “Is it possible to die at home?”
Dying at home allows terminally ill patients to spend their final days in a familiar environment, surrounded by the warmth and love of their family. Those who choose to pass away at home would need to make the necessary arrangements with their own doctor in advance. Under Hong Kong law, any terminal ill patient who dies at home must be attended to by a Hong Kong registered doctor within 14 days before his/her death. Therefore, our visiting doctor would reassess the illness condition of the patient once every two weeks. To prepare for end-of-life care at home, the patient’s family members or caregivers would receive support on caring techniques and recognizing symptoms in the dying stage. Once the patient passes away, an emergency call must be placed to the medical doctor for death certification.
Recently, public awareness on dying at home has been increasing in Hong Kong. Since the start of the pandemic, public hospitals have restricted visitation, leaving many terminally ill patients isolated from their families. This in turn has brought more public attention to end of life arrangements than ever before.
One such case was Grandma Cheung, a terminally ill liver cancer patient who spent three months in a public hospital during the early days of the pandemic. Unable to visit his wife, Grandpa Cheung began to explore other options. After learning about our home care service, he eventually decided to take Grandma Cheung home where our nurses continued to provide symptom management as well as carer training to the family. A few days later, unfortunately, Grandma Cheung passed away peacefully at home with her husband and loved ones at her side. Our doctor conducted a follow up visit to complete death certification and make the necessary arrangements.
Unlike other developed parts of the world, palliative care in Hong Kong is still relatively underrecognized by comparison. In 2016, studies conducted by HKU, CUHK and The Federation of Medical Societies of Hong Kong indicated that 30% of the surveyed population in Hong Kong preferred to remain at home for end-of-life care. On the other hand, it has been estimated that home death cases accounted for only 3% of the total deaths in Hong Kong, far below 40% in Taiwan and even 27% in Singapore respectively.
To make dying at home possible, a number of environmental and psychological conditions would have to be met. Firstly, there must be sufficient living space to accommodate the medical equipment and bed of the dying patient. Secondly, family members or caregivers must be able to provide palliative support and have the emotional capacity to discuss life and death issues with the patient.
Hong Kong presents some major obstacles when it comes to dying at home. As I have said before, the city’s cramped living space is usually not suitable for home death and preclude many patients as a result. Also, the general lack of education and awareness of end of life arrangements, particularly among the grassroots population, mean that most people may not even realize that home death is a real option. Finally, there is significant cultural stigma towards dying at home with some believing that it would cause their property to become haunted and subsequently lose its value. And these obstacles taken together, make it difficult for our frontline clinical staff to promote the development of home death service.
The implementation of home death service would help address one of the most pressing issues in Hong Kong – population aging. Increasing public acceptance and utilization of home death would not only provide the terminally ill with an alternative, more comfortable way to depart this world, but also reduce the pressure on public hospitals. It is without a doubt a win-win situation but one that can only be achieved with policy support. We hope the government will consider enacting a long-term plan that would allocate additional resources to palliative care services, particularly in home care, and strengthen public education and interorganizational collaboration on promoting home death.