Hong Kong: Increased penalties for breaching occupational safety and health requirements

In brief

On 28 April 2023, the Occupational Safety and Occupational Health Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2023 ("Ordinance") took effect upon gazettal. 

Employers who breach the statutory occupational safety and health requirements in Hong Kong will now be subject to significantly higher fines and imprisonment for up to two years.


Key takeaways

The Ordinance seeks to enhance the deterrent effect of the occupational safety and health offenses under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59) (FIUO) and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509) (OSHO) by increasing the maximum fines for certain offenses. The key changes introduced by the Ordinance include the following:

  • The maximum liability of an employer that breaches the general duty under Section 6A FIUO and Section 6 OSHO to ensure its employees' health and safety at work has increased to a fine of HKD 3 million upon summary conviction, and to a fine of HKD 10 million upon indictment. Where the employer contravenes such general duty willfully and without reasonable excuse, the penalty on summary conviction is now HKD 3 million and imprisonment for 6 months and on conviction on indictment, HKD 10 million and two years' imprisonment. 
  • Where an employer is convicted on indictment, the court must consider the turnover of the employer's business and other financial information given by the employer in assessing the appropriate fine.
  • Other less serious offenses relating to occupational safety and health committed by employers are also subject to heavier fines. These summary offenses can be broadly grouped into three categories:
Categories/seriousness  Previous maximum fine  Amended maximum fine
Minor offenses (e.g., failure to provide sanitary conveniences in the workplace) HKD 10,000 
(Level 3 fine)
HKD 25,000
(Level 4 fine)
Serious offenses (e.g., failure to report workplace accidents) HKD 50,000
(Level 5 fine)
HKD 100,000
(Level 6 fine)
Very serious offenses (e.g., improper use of hoists on construction sites) HKD 200,000  HKD 400,000
  • The time limit for prosecution of summary offenses has been extended from six months to nine months.

A 28 April 2023 government press release explained that the Labour Department will continue to adopt a three-pronged approach to promote an occupational, safety and health culture through inspection and enforcement, publicity and promotion, as well as education and training, to reduce the occurrence of accidents.

For more information, please contact tess.lumsdaine@bakermckenzie.com.

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