In the midst of a construction boom that shows no sign of letting up, fatal accidents in the industry continue to rise despite such incidents dropping in other sectors, figures from the Operational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) show.
In fact, construction deaths accounted for all fatal workplace accidents since 2016.
Construction workers disregarding stringent health and safety regulations has always been commonplace in the country, with ‘only in Malta’ becoming a meme before memes were even a thing.
However, the surge in construction activity has undoubtedly had a significant effect. When taking the figure in context with the number of workers in this sector, the rates actually show a downward trend.
This does not completely exonerate the sector, with 60% of all workplace fatal accidents taking place in the construction industry over a ten year period.
The issue was propelled to the forefront of the national debate after two foreign workers, both Syrian, died in a matter of weeks on one another towards the end of last year. Another man died in construction accident just 11 days ago.
The death of 26-year-old Akram Almshay, in particular, shocked the nation after a video emerged of the man dangling off a seven storey building in Sliema before falling to his death.
Figures do indicate that the fatalities in the sector have begun to aversely affect foreign workers. While 38% of all construction fatal accidents over a ten year period involved foreign workers, in the last three years (2016-2018) 6 of the 9 deaths involved foreigners.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, OHSA CEO Mark Gauci stressed that it was important “recognise the improvements in the prevailing standards of occupational health and safety, as evidenced by the downward trends in fatality and injury rates”
Nowhere is this more apparent than with the decrease in injuries on construction sites dropping by roughly 25% from 652 injuries in 2010 to 485 in 2019.
“This notwithstanding, more needs to be done as the sector is one in continuous flux, not only because of the dramatic increase in construction projects but also because there is a greater utilisation of foreign workers, with whom it is often difficult to communicate and who are frequently unaware of the legal obligations,” Gauci said.
Enforcement of regulations, some may say, is an issue. Gauci, however, disagrees explaining that the industry is “considered as a high-risk activity all over the world as it is associated with high numbers of injuries and fatalities,” also pointing to the downward trend in fatality rates.
He also added that given construction activity effects members of the public in many different ways ranging from dust and noise to damage to third party property, many people still refer these matters to the OHSA.
“Despite the fact that there are other entities specifically responsible to deal with such issues,” he said.
Feature Image Inset: The Malta Independent