Would you trust someone with expertise in IT to oversee the construction and excavation of your home or a neighbouring property? Malta’s Association of Professional Engineers is raising major concerns over a glaring loophole in the island’s out-of-control construction industry introduced just a year ago.
As part of reforms introduced following a series of building collapses in Malta, engineering graduates were made eligible to act as STOs at excavation and construction sites. That means that any engineering graduate, regardless of their realm of expertise, is eligible to occupy the crucial position of an STO.
The word ‘engineer’ covers a wide range of skills and expertise, with current legislation allowing mechanical, IT and even electrical engineers to oversee excavation and other vital construction practices.
“We’re exposing the public to unnecessary risks. They’re completely different realms of skills and knowledge,” MAPE’s Arthur Ciantar told Lovin Malta.
STOs are meant to be qualified persons responsible for overseeing crucial and sensitive works during construction. MAPE says that simply meeting the criteria to become an STO should not mean someone can claim to be an engineer.
They insist that saying most engineers can work as STOs goes directly against the code of ethics outlined in the Engineering Profession Act, which prohibits them from working “outside their area of competence”.
Meanwhile, the role of architects and civil engineers, they told Lovin Malta, are entirely separate from that of engineers. Working as STOs simply exposes engineers (who may, in fact, have little knowledge about construction) to substantial risk.
In fact, they have told all their members that they should not work as STOs and would not offer any defence if they’re found culpable.
“The issue will not just be felt now, but years in the future when the results of these rules will actually be felt and all our buildings will need to be changed,” Ciantar said.
MAPE feels it has been ignored by the big players in the industry, who it says are simply interested in passing off responsibility. Despite changes introduced a year ago, Ciantar continued, there is still rampant abuse in the sector. Miriam Pace’s fatal accident was a perfect example of this.
Ciantar is critical of recent proposals made by the Chamber of Architects, warning that passing off responsibility to contractors is a crisis waiting to happen.
“They could not be trusted all this time, now they’re suddenly going to change,” he said.
MAPE will meet with the Chamber later this week to discuss the issue and find a compromise.