New Changes to Occupational Safety and Health Legislation in Hong Kong Come into Effect on 28 April 2023
The Hong Kong Legislative Council has recently passed the Occupational Safety and Occupational Health Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2022 (the Amendment Bill) on 19 April 2023. Back in February 2022, the Labour Department introduced a paper to the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower proposing to raise penalties of offences under occupational safety and health (OSH) legislations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509) and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59), as well as their subsidiary regulations. The Amendment Bill has come into effect today (28 April 2023). A quick summary of the key amendments is set out below.
Summary of Key Amendments
- For extremely serious cases, the employer’s general duty (GD) provisions in OSH legislation have been amended so that the Labour Department can now take out prosecutions by invoking the provisions as indictable offences and bring them to a higher-level court for trial, and the maximum penalties for indictable offences are set at HKD10 million for fines and 2 years for imprisonment. New provisions also require the courts to take into account the convicted company’s turnover, financial record, or scale of operation to impose a fine that is sufficiently deterrent.
- For summary offenses, the maximum fine for the employer’s GD provisions has been increased to HKD3 million and that for the employee’s GD provisions has been increased to HKD150,000.
- The maximum fines for “very serious”, “serious”, and “minor” offences have been adjusted, and 230 offence provisions have been realigned to reflect the seriousness of the offences:
- Minor offences – from HKD10,000 to HKD25,000 (employer)/HKD10,000 (employee);
- Serious offences – from HKD50,000 to HKD100,000 (employer)/HKD50,000 (employee); and
- Very serious offences – from HKD200,000 to HKD400,000 (employer)/HKD150,000 (employee).
- The maximum fines for other provisions that are not suitable for the seriousness categorisation have been increased by 1.5 times for employee-related provisions and 2 times for non-employee-related provisions.
- The time limit for issuing summonses where prosecutions are taken out as summary offences has been increased from six months to nine months.
The amendments increase the penalties under OSH legislation for the first time in almost 20 years. While the effect of the increase in penalties will unlikely be seen immediately, it is hoped that this will further enhance occupational safety and health performance in Hong Kong in the long run.