• Industry’s “Guardian Angel” of onsite safety

    17 October 2012

    Work in Hong Kong’s construction industry? Return home each day safe and injury-free? Then you are just one of many who have an earth-bound spirit to thank for the emphasis now placed upon construction industry onsite safety. 

    This champion of Hong Kong construction workers is Housing Department Deputy Director of Housing (Development and Construction), Ada Fung, who oversees all facets of work covering project management, planning, design and contract management, as well as establishing operational policies on procurement, design, construction, quality, performance assessment, dispute resolution, research and development, safety and the environment for public housing development in Hong Kong. 

    Graduating in 1981 from Hong Kong University with a Bachelor of Architecture (Distinction), Ms Fung was a practicing architect for several years prior to joining the Housing Department. Today, Ms Fung is acknowledged across the industry as a major advocate of onsite safety as confirmed by the Housing Authority’s notable record to date in the reduction in work-related accidents and injuries over the last two decades. 

    Caring for people 

    Ada Fung“I care for people,” states Ms Fung. “But I care for all people, not just clients, but the frontline workers who actually allow us to realise our vision in relation to specific projects, adhering to the core value of the ‘four Cs’ – ‘caring’, ‘customer-focused’, ‘committed’ and ‘creative’, especially the C which stands for ‘caring’.” 

    Ms Fung clearly has her finger firmly on the pulse of the construction industry, overseeing all facets in the development and construction of Housing Department projects, from contract and operating policies to research and development and the promotion of partnering, ethical integrity, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development. 

    “In the 1990’s, we introduced the Performance Assessments Scoring System (PASS),” states Ms Fung. “This assessment is in line with our core belief that ‘clean sites are safe sites’ and that Public Housing ‘must not be built on the lives of the Hong Kong workforce’ by encouraging the use of ‘Safe Working Cycles’, ‘Pay for Safety Schemes’ and ‘Safety Climate Indices’. 

    Safety the top priority 

    A direct result of introducing of these initiatives has been twenty-fold decrease in the number of work-related accidents on public housing projects over the last 20 years to a recorded accident rate of less than 10 accidents per 1000 workers, as compared with the accident rates which recorded some 200-plus accidents per 1,000 workers around 1990. In fact, in 2011, the Housing Department also recorded zero fatalities on projects, achieving the Authority’s stated goal of zero tolerance to fatalities. 

    “I believe that safety should be the primary concern of every construction practitioner,” continues Ms Fung. “As such, I see my role as that of driving everybody towards practicing safety and quality holistically in all aspects of our work, from designers and contractors, to sub-contractors and workers and everything must be integrated. I am a confirmed advocate of Total Quality Management that embraces everything from safety and workers’ welfare, to fair risk allocation, fair price, fair programme, and quality products with zero incidents. I then drive any necessary change in collaboration with the industry as a whole.” 

    In the mid-90s, I attended a Safety Auditor training course so that we could drive the independent safety audit scheme with more confidence. Such were the benefits I derived from attending this course, that I now also require my professional staff to take a 4-day Safety Passport Training Course and to date over 80% of them have successfully completed this course.” 

    Compromise unacceptable 

    “I simply will not compromise where site safety is concerned,” stated Ms Fung. “Here at the Housing Authority, our first priority is the welfare of frontline workers as we do not want public housing built on workers’ injuries.” 

    Ms Fung elaborates further, stating that her key demand is for professionals involved in projects, such as designers and architects to plan and design with safety in mind. 

    “Some architects may find it a challenge when I demand safe design for future maintenance during the design review panel process and engineers may also find it challenging when I ask them to use BIM to simulate something like a demolition process with safe operations, but this has been the key to us in achieving our current accident rate and notably ZERO incident target.” 

    Ada Fung thumbKey requirements 

    Ms Fung lists a number of ways to continuously foster the Authority’s onsite safety on an ever unfolding programme, lighting the path to safety with a caring heart. 

    “Even one accident is too many, hence our advocate of ‘ZERO incident’.  ‘Safety First’ is embedded at every level of our organization and communicated to every contractor. We align vision and practice holistically and drive safety through a three-pronged approach, systematically launching the strategies to promote best practice. As we seek to select business partners of our supply chain, the first of these is procurement and the requirement that contractors must have established safety management systems in place in line with Occupation Health & Safety standards. Contractors’ safety performances are also audited every quarter through the Housing Authority Safety Auditing System (HASAS) managed by the Occupational Health & Safety Council — an independent expert system to assess safety performance of contractors since 1996.” 

    “Safety audits are extended to building services nominated subcontracts and linked to payment under Pay for Safety, with due consideration given to safety performance and the working environment onsite. Payments linked to safety audits are made quarterly and if the audit records a score equal to or above 80%, then full payment will be made. If a score is below 80%, then 30% of the amount will be deducted from the payment, however, if a score of less than 70% is recorded, then no payment is made.  Earlier this year, the Pay for Safety Scheme was further reviewed and refined.” 

    Down to earth approach 

    Ms Fung is governed by three down-to-earth fundamentals as she continues to supervise the many projects undertaken by the Housing Department, namely, that safety and quality goes hand in hand, that projects should not be built on the lives of Hong Kong workers, and that prevention is always better than cure. 

     “Safety is not simply an act; it is a habit and a culture, and it takes time to nurture. Just do it; and we can make it. I will continue advocating for improved onsite safety and working conditions across the construction industry,” says Ms Fung. “Our safety record to date is one I am extremely proud of and one that we will vigorously promote into the future.”

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