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Helping hands to make life easier
John Brennan
update on Saturday, November 20, 2010
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Despite the efforts of companies in the construction industry, worksite accidents still happen. Injuries sustained can range from bone fractures to brain damage.

The Hong Kong Rehabilitation Advice and Enquiries Association is a government-registered charitable organisation established in 2005.

"The help we can provide includes visits from social workers, legal aid, counselling and psychological therapy," says community liaison director Beth Choi. "We can lend patients wheelchairs and rehabilitation equipment, and we have a rehab bus."

If injured construction workers have accommodation problems, the association can make referrals to the Housing Department.

Carmen Wu, a social worker with the group, says all their services are provided free of charge. "Patients pay a deposit for wheelchairs and rehabilitation equipment, but this is returned when the equipment is brought back. We have a small budget and lots of patients. I think the safety programme is not very good in Hong Kong."

Wu acknowledges that within the construction industry, many businesses have implemented rigorous health and safety policies, and employees are less at risk.

"They have to do their exercise before starting work, and they have to read up on the safety regulations. But not all the companies are like this," she says.

"In Hong Kong, time is money. If the construction company has to hurry to finish the work, then they hurry and they are not so concerned about safety."

Wu thinks construction workers' wage structure places them under additional pressure, which exacerbates health and safety problems. "Some patients I see have only a day-based salary. On Sundays, they have no money. And when working, they only get several hundred dollars a day," she says. Being paid by the day means they are not entitled to any benefits.

Wu does, however, think the level of compensation payments for injured workers is acceptable. "A worker can get compensation quite easily," she says, adding that someone who is injured at work is entitled to a maximum of 24 months sick leave and will get 80 per cent of his salary a month.

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