Adventures in East Asia

Bamboo Scaffolders

One thing that I've always been impressed with in Hong Kong is the scaffolding which is constructed from bamboo. Stay with me here...


When I visited more than ten years ago, I remember walking past a three story building where a couple of guys had just begun putting together some bamboo scaffolding.

When I returned later that day, the guys had finished a three storey construction of bamboo scaffolding. I was just amazed enough to actually notice this normal element of daily life and remember what I saw years after!

I'm quite impressed with the people who put together (and take apart) the scaffolding because they do it really quickly (and without fear!) and it seems, quite skillfully, as they use some kind of rope or twine to hold the bamboo poles together.

In the UK, the only scaffolding I see is metal based with metal fixings. I'm not actually sure how long it takes to put up by comparison, but I'm guessing I'm long gone from any site to even notice.

Granted, bamboo is lighter and alot easier to come by in Hong Kong than it is in the UK, so it's not surprising that its quicker to put up. But in my experience of this country so far, the work ethic just seems to comprise of "no-nonsense" and "get-the-job-done".

"Health and Safety" springs to mind. It's policy that is obviously designed to prevent accidents, but I sometimes get the feeling that in the UK, it causes more red tape and delays than is actually helpful in getting things done. I've heard of ludicrous scenarios such as contractors not being able to put satellite dishes up on the side of a house, but the front was ok (unfortunately, I don't know the details).

There's obviously a reason for H&S, but life just seems simpler and more practical in Hong Kong, from what I've experienced so far. To be honest, I don't know if they have a Health and Safety policy. If they do, it's obviously practical enough for workers to get their jobs done. (Or perhaps no one takes any notice, which wouldn't surprise me either.)

An example - we recently had our net connection installed. Part-way through, the engineer who came around was checking our house and the surrounding land for preinstalled wires. He found what he was looking for - a twenty foot (approximate) pole outside laced with wires. To our surprise, he then shimmied up the pole, made some changes and then slide back down again. Unheard of in the UK.

But saying that, we probably don't expect our UK net installers to climb up poles and if they were expected to, they'd probably get loads of training and clearance through Health and Safety etc. Or maybe they'd simply refuse, due to H&S and tell us to reschedule (argh!) for an engineer that can.

Going back to Hong Kong - no, I don't know what would happen if the engineer did fall down the pole and break his neck.

This entry posted in : Culture. Hong Kong.

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03/03/09  at  01:32 PM
I wonder what the accident rates in construction are in the UK vs. Hong Kong and what kind of insurance or coverage a worker might have in the case of an accident.

I appreciate that regulations can be a pain and slow things down, but if it can save a limb or even life here or there that might be a good bargain, still.
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03/03/09  at  01:39 PM
Yep, its true. It would be interesting to know the accident rates in each country.

I think there's also alot to do with what the people in each country are used to doing as well. If HK people are used to clambering around, less accidents will probably happen.

For me, looking up at the pole outside our house, I'd think twice before attempting to climb up it (lightweight I know..). My apprehension would probably make me slip if I did try...

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