A Guide To Spotting Health & Safety Illegalities In Malta
With young men losing their lives to build homes, what actual responsibilities are involved?
Surprisingly, workers in Malta's construction industry have rights, and their employers have duties. These rights and duties are meant to save lives and stop workers from being injured at work in one of the most dangerous industries worldwide.
In Great Britain alone, 5,190 workers were killed on the job in 2016 - and the number one thing that led to deaths were violations related to "fall protection and construction" standards.
For the most part, accidents in the construction industry "are due to bad planning, lack of organisation and poor co-ordination on construction sites", according to Malta's Occupational Health and Safety Authority.
There are a number of standards related to running a safe construction site - here are seven of the most salient ones and should be the bare minimum any contractor, business owner, of self-employed entrepreneur put into place before paying someone to hang with a single rope from a seven storey building.
Following the tragic death of a 26-year-old Libyan construction worker last Monday, Lovin Malta launched #SafetyWatch in an effort to combatting the spread of illegal, dangerous, and inhumane practices by naming and shaming them.
If you're not sure what constitutes one of these practises, however, here's an easy guide on spotting them.
1. Workers are allowed to use dangerous working methods when there's no viable alternative
Working methods such as working on a plank - as is often the case - are not recommended to be used. However, they can still be used if there are no better methods to do the job.
If a contractor or employer feels that sending an employee up seven storeys on a plank with just a rope holding them up is the best way to get a job done, they can feasibly justify it by saying there was nothing else they could do.
2. A metal cage isn't always needed when lifting employees to heights
In "exceptional circumstances", workers are allowed to be lifted via crane without needing a metal cage - only if the crane is also specifically designed to lift persons though. A reliable means of communication must be provided to employees, as when as a means of evacuating them in the event of danger.
Any equipment that is not specifically designed for the purpose of lifting persons cannot be used.
3. Employers are required to inspect their equipment at regular intervals
According to the OHSA's Code of Practice for the Construction Industry, employers need to check all their employees equipment once every six months.
"An employer shall ensure that all chains, ropes and lifting tackle in use shall be thoroughly examined by a competent person at least once in every period of six months. All hooks shall be fitted with a safety latch."
4. Clients must appoint specific supervisors to watch over a construction site
According to OHSA's guidelines, owners of construction projects must appoint a planning and design supervisor of construction projects - a “project supervisor for the design stage” (PSDS) - as well as a project supervisor of construction projects during execution stage - a “project supervisor for the construction stage” (PSCS).
These two supervisors must oversee the safety regulations on site, as well as ensure employees are not put in harm's way.
5. A "health and safety approach" needs to be taken from the get-go
To maintain health and safety standards on site, safety must be considered as early as the design stage of a new project. From the actual blueprint to the appointing of supervisors, OHSA recommends providing all info "in good time and well in advance".
OHSA also mentions providing a pre-tender health and safety plan to tendering contractors to strengthen health and safety on site, and also recommends being "realistic and reasonable" with deadlines.
6. The higher the risk, the more resources need to be focused on it
OHSA are clear about the responsability of site-owners towards sending employees to do a risky job.
"The amount of resources and the level of effort (such as time, trouble and money) exerted to protect health and safety must be commensurate and proportional to the risks involved. Thus, the higher the risk and the more difficult it is to manage such risks, the more resources and effort could be needed to counteract such risks associated with the project," they said.
7. Contractors, sub-contractors and the self-employed must take all appropriate precautions to protect all persons who may be affected by any work being carried out
This includes employees and other persons not in their employment, such as other contractors’ employees, visitors, suppliers, nearby residents and the general public, according to OHSA.
The main contractor could be in the best position to control and influence the protection of health and safety on the site.
It is up to contractors and sub-contractors to provide and maintain workplaces, plant, equipment, tools and machinery and ensure that they are free from risk of accident or injury to the detriment of the health and safety of workers. They shall also ensure that plant, equipment, tools or machinery made available to workers are suitable for the work to be carried out, conform to approved standards and regulations, are safe and can be operated without risk to health and safety
8. Contractors and sub-contractors must assign work based on the employee's skills and age
Project owners should give tasks and duties that are suitable according to the level of training, age, state of health and skill, after "having ensured that the workers are fully aware of any risks to their health or hazards connected with work, and that they are trained in the precautions necessary to avoid accidents or injury to health."
You can find the full Code of Practice for the Construction Industry by following this link
You can find out what Workers Rights and Responsibilities are by following this link