Monday, April 14, 2008

ISA HK/China --- CAP 509 OSHO laws on Chainsaw Safety

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Dear Station Members,

The Station Manager recently received a Top Handle Chainsaw as a gift from a friend after helping him with a tree assessment event. Then it was customary for him to study the Operating Manuel of any power tool upon arrival to make sure all details of the tool were understood before use.

It was stated clearly in the Manuel that "This special chainsaw may be used only by persons trained in tree surgery & maintenance techniques". The same precaution was noticed by the Station Manager on the Manuals of the other 4 Chainsaws that he possessed of various sizes in the past.

Chainsaw is one of the most dangerous tools for tree work in the world. There have been over 30,000 industrial accidents involving chainsaws in North America every year in the past 5 years. ISA HK/China has also reported several chainsaw accidents which happened locally from the media in the past. The Station Manager saw one of his former staff with two fingers cut off in operating a chainsaw carelessly some years ago.

Yet chainsaw is one of Arborist's most favourite tools. Imagine trying to remove a 6 inch limb 40 feet off the ground where lifting platform can not reach which must be done by tree climbing. Would the Arborist pick a hand saw with which he would have to cut for minutes in agony while dangling up there amidst the heat & tension, or would he choose an 8 inch chainsaw where he could finish up the job in seconds? The answer is obvious enough.

It is not known that in HK where any public institutes like CICTA, VTC or horticultural training centres would provide classes on how to operate chainsaws, with tree climbing in particular, to follow international requirements. Govt Depts would offer the training but only to their own staff. TCHK ( is planning to open classes in end May to conduct chainsaw training. In reality, there are very few tree professionals in HK experienced enough to teach chainsaws.

CAP 509 OSHO Ordinance of HK stipulates that:

Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (CAP 509) and subsidiary regulations

Detail: regulate safety and health at work of all economic activities (both industrial and non-industrial establishments). The scope has been expanded to cover offices, commercial premises, educational institutions, hospitals, clinics, laboratories and other workplaces. The legislation imposes general duty of care on employers, occupiers of premises and employees, and set down basic requirements in accident prevention, fire prevention, working environment, workplace hygiene, first aid, manual handling operation and use of display screen equipment.

Chapter: 509
Gazette Number: L.N. 230 of 1998 Section: 6
Heading: Employers to ensure safety and health of employees
Version Date: 01/06/1998


(1) Every employer must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure the safety and health at work of all the employer's employees.(2) The cases in which an employer fails to comply with subsection (1) include (but are not limited to) the following-

(a) a failure to provide or maintain plant and systems of work that are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health;(b) a failure to make arrangements for ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances;(c) a failure to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety and health at work of the employer's employees;(d) as regards any workplace under the employer's control-

(i) a failure to maintain the workplace in a condition that is, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health; or(ii) a failure to provide or maintain means of access to and egress from the workplace that are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without any such risks;(e) a failure to provide or maintain a working environment for the employer's employees that is, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

(3) An employer who fails to comply with subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $200000.(4) An employer who fails to comply with subsection (1) intentionally, knowingly or recklessly commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $200000 and to imprisonment for 6 months.

Although the final interpretation will be carried out in Court, it is likely that any employer not providing training & approved safety equipment in using a chainsaw may be breaching CAP 509, if accused. This will be particularly true if any chainsaw accident has occurred.

Chainsaws are believed to be used daily in our territory in landscaping work. With high exposure to such a very dangerous tool, not getting training & using approved safety equipment would be inviting troubles. While our Safety Officers require procedures & licensing in many aspects of industrial work, why should our chainsaws be a giveaway?

Would HK practise double standard for safety when it comes to chainsaws, & why?

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

The ISA Mission - Through research, technology, and education, promote the professional practice of arboriculture and foster a greater public awareness of the benefits of trees. (