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Construction Workers’ Lives in Jeopardy

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the Malta Employers’ Association again find themselves having to condemn in the most forceful manner the circumstances that have led to yet another construction death and several grievous injuries following Saturday’s Corradino building collapse.

After years of empty promises and innumerable deaths and maimed lives, when are the authorities really going to tackle the problem and properly regulate the construction industry? Irrespective of all the words, promises and setting up of new authorities, these incidents, with loss of life or limb, have increased in frequency. Clearly, it is no use setting up regulatory authorities if their fundamental framework is seriously flawed, lacking in resources and expertise

FAA condemns the fact that successive governments have endorsed the fallacy that Malta’s economy depends on the building industry, trying every strategem to keep the building industry afloat by increasing areas for development, adding policies to load on more floors, allowing high rise towers, facilitating sales, loans, rebates for first time/second time buyers, facilitating development in UCAs, and as reported, the use of DNOs to speed up projects in certain cases. Such rapid approval of industrial projects has now resulted in the probable bypass of essential  scrutiny and contributes to tragedies.

The Design Guidelines 2015 have also increased the danger element, allowing extra floors which are often added to old buildings which were not originally designed or built to withstand these extra loads – a disaster waiting to happen. Money has overtaken sense and eclipsed any thought of workers’ or neighbours’ safety, as in the cases of Mrs. Miriam Pace and now Mr JeanPaul Sofia.

The Planning Authority steadfastly washes its hands of safety issues; its insistence that worried neighbours seek redress in court aids and abets cowboy contractors who know that many can’t afford to do so. Add to this the unregulated builder’s trade, the lack of proper apprenticeship schemes and the changing of systems of construction without thought of consequences.

After so many years of hollow promises of reform, the Building and Construction Authority still does not have the resources to fully screen or enforce building site safety, and has failed to study and strengthen geological studies. To date, anyone with no training or experience can become a contractor as long as they employ a licensed mason, and the long-promised list of certified contractors has never materialised.

Government’s collusion with developers has resulted in the so-called ‘importation’ of low-cost labour, providing developers with an army of workers. However Government is not doing enough to ensure that they are not exploited and reduced to modern slavery. It has also meant that many foreign construction workers and even contractors are not even able to communicate properly between them, besides being unfamiliar not familiar with even basic Maltese or international building practice and safety measures.

In so far as employment issues are concerned, particularly Occupational Health and Safety, the Malta Employers Association continues to insist that adequate standards are established and maintained through strict enforcement and proper measures to ensure accountability.  This is a must in the construction industry where the responsible employer needs to be distinguished from the rest.

Architects also bear their share of responsibility when they take on projects without ensuring the necessary structural safeguards, putting lives in jeaopardy. An experienced architect should be able to recognise a cowboy builder and yet, we are still discussing issues of substandard building practices, which leads us to, ask what is happening, are certain professionals also blinded by material gain?

The consequences of the recent accident were terrible but it could have been worse, had the building collapse happened in a few months time when the building was to be occupied on five floors. One dreads to think of this happening to an inhabited block of apartments, a hotel or a factory in full production!

Clearly, the public is owed an explanation of every collapse, injury and death, however results of judicial enquiries are not being made public and similarly there is a deathly silence re police action relating to these tragedies. Clearly, there is no will from the authorities to make sure the building industry is reined in and regulated, leaving workers’ lives unprotected and residents’ lives ruined.

07/12/2022 flimkien ghal ambjent ahjar
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