Postal workers are at greater risk of heat stroke as temperatures rise during Hong Kong’s summers, unions have said. They urged authorities to offer better protection and increase the benefits offered to workers.
Representatives of the Hong Kong Postal Workers Union and Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) met the press on Thursday morning.
Cheung Wai-kuen, chairperson of the postal workers union, said the interior temperature of postal vehicles could reach between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius when parked in rural areas for delivery in hot weather.
As workers are required to meet a fixed delivery target within their working hours, Cheung said they did not have time to wait for the vehicles to cool and must immediately drive to the next destination.
Exposure to such temperatures could increase workers’ risk of heat stroke, which would be “very dangerous,” especially during rural deliveries, as they normally work alone.
In addition, Cheung said the corridors of many public housing estates were windowless. Postal workers would find themselves “soaked from head to toe” with sweat from the stuffy environment, he added.
“We think the government should make an example by setting up a law to protect our co-workers when outdoors,” Cheung said, adding that other parties, including government departments, would not act without legislation.
He said the Hongkong Post should review the working guidelines and allow its staff to have sufficient breaks when the temperatures were very high, and improve the insulation of postal vehicles.
The union leader also asked the Hongkong Post to give out hardship allowances, such as those provided to lifeguards by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
Speaking at the same conference, lawmaker Aron Kwok of the FTU also said that authorities should enact laws to better protect workers who have to work in hot environments.
Kwok urged the Hongkong Post to switch to electric vehicles for postal deliveries as they would allow workers to turn on the air-conditioning remotely in advance.
July was Hong Kong’s hottest month, during which at least four heatstroke-related deaths were reported.
Im Eun-soon, an associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Division of Environment and Sustainability, told HKFP that extreme hot weather will become more frequent as a result of global warming.
“Even if we stop greenhouse gas emissions, carbon has already accumulated in our atmosphere,” she said, which suggested that rising temperatures would continue to rise globally.
Im said that Hong Kong’s society and legislators should work together and think of adaptation and mitigation policies, such as shifting the working hours of outdoor workers to protect them from dangerous temperatures.