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Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Ir Dr Hon Lo Wai-kwok in the Legislative Council today (May 15):
In April this year, a Number 4 alarm fire broke out in an upper floor unit of a building, but the fire hydrant in that building malfunctioned, which had increased the difficulties of fire-fighting work. Some members of the public have pointed out that this fire has highlighted the existence of quite a number of potential fire safety hazards in buildings in Hong Kong. Regarding fire safety in buildings in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that section 8 of the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations (Cap. 95 sub. leg. B) provides that the owner of any fire service installation or equipment which is installed in any premises shall have such fire service installation or equipment inspected by a registered contractor at least once in every 12 months, whether the Fire Services Department (FSD) has considered conducting a comprehensive review of whether such a requirement can ensure that the relevant inspection work is conducted properly, so as to keep fire service installations or equipment in efficient working order at all times; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(b) given that FSD published a consultation document in 2007 and 2011 respectively proposing the establishment of a new registration mechanism for the third party engaged in fire safety certification (i.e. registered fire engineers) so as to implement the Third Party Fire Safety Certification Scheme, and the second round of consultation had already ended on January 16, 2012, whether FSD has formulated a policy on the registration of fire engineers and the implementation of the Third Party Fire Safety Certification Scheme based on the consultation outcome as it had undertaken to do so in the consultation document; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) In accordance with the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations (Cap. 95B), an owner of fire service installations (FSIs)/equipment shall make sure that the FSIs/equipment can function properly and are inspected at least once a year by a registered FSI contractor, who shall forward a copy of the annual inspection certificate to the Fire Services Department (FSD) within 14 days after completion of the inspection. FSD will take enforcement actions against FSIs/equipment owners who fail to arrange inspections of their FSIs/equipment on time and against contractors who file a false or misleading certificate, etc. The Department also conducts random check on the annual inspection certificates and takes appropriate follow-up actions against problems shown on the certificates, such as issuing a warning letter to the building concerned, etc.
Currently, there are legislation and administrative measures for the Government to monitor FSI contractors. When a registered FSI contractor is convicted by the court for contravening a regulation, FSD will refer the case to the Registered FSI Contractors Disciplinary Board for disciplinary inquiry under the Fire Service (Installation Contractors) Regulations (Cap. 95A). Depending on the seriousness and circumstances of the case, the Disciplinary Board may reprimand the concerned contractor or remove him from the list of registered FSI contractors.
In addition, FSD makes use of an administrative measure, i.e. a demerit point system, to monitor the performance of FSI contractors. The Department will record demerit points corresponding to the fault and contravention committed by the contractor. It will then adjust its frequency of inspection on FSIs and equipment maintained by such contractors in accordance with the demerit point record. This is to ensure that contractors with unsatisfactory record will be monitored more closely in order to ensure that their service level meets the required standard.
Under the existing regulatory system, the legislation, administrative measures and fire safety inspections are complementary of one another. Hence, FSD does not see a need to modify the current system. Nonetheless, it will closely monitor the performance of FSI contractors and take appropriate follow-up actions to strengthen the monitoring on those with unsatisfactory records.
(b) The introduction of Third Party Fire Safety Certification refers to FSD’s plan to introduce the Registered Fire Engineer (RFE) Scheme, under which a licence applicant may opt to engage an RFE for provision of fire safety-related services, instead of using those services provided by FSD. Under the Scheme, a qualified engineer may register with FSD as an RFE. Upon successful registration, the RFEs may provide fire safety-related services to licence applicants (such as restaurants and cinemas), which include the conduct of fire risk assessments, formulation of fire safety requirements, certification of compliance of FSD’s requirement for FSIs/equipment and/or ventilating systems in the premises, as well as the issue of Fire Safety Certificates for those licence applicants. These steps could help to shorten the time required for obtaining the licence and meet the needs of the trades, so as to achieve business facilitation. After the introduction of the RFE Scheme, FSD would continue to provide fire safety-related services so that licence applicants would have a choice on the service provider basing on their needs.
FSD conducted consultation exercises in 2007-08 and 2011-12. The majority of the trade supported the proposed RFE Scheme. In light of the views of the trade and to assess the possible impact of the RFE Scheme on the trade, FSD has commissioned a consultant in mid-2012 to conduct a business impact assessment, including the assessment on the potential supply of RFEs and their service charges. The Department is studying the consultant’s report and plans to brief the trade on its findings in mid-2013.
Subject to the findings of the assessment and the views of the trade, FSD plans to set up a working group comprising representatives from the Engineers Registration Board, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the trade, etc., to further discuss and formulate the implementation details. They will also make preparations for the relevant legislative amendments.