The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

TMID Editorial: Construction industry - Ban all ‘xoghol bil-pont’

Tuesday, 4 December 2018, 11:06 Last update: about 12 days ago

The country was shocked last week by the death of the young Libyan man who fell a great height while working on an unfinished building.

The shock people expressed regarded the very graphic scene as captured by someone who happened to witness what was happening. The poor man dangled for a full minute and a half at the end of a rope while his companion tried in vain to reach him with another rope.

Then we had an almighty battle scrum between the media between those who had carried the very graphic scene and those who felt they must not carry such a harrowing scene.

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This debate was a worthy one and the media must always be held responsible by the people and corrected whenever it is felt it was wrong. The media is neither in an ivory tower nor does it have the benefit of infallibility. On the contrary it must always beware of the temptation to go for sales or clicks rather than for what is truly news-worthy.

But the death of the Libyan man, who left a family behind, and so many other construction accidents, including one yesterday, must more realistically focus attention on practices in the industry which should not be there in this day and age.

In particular, the country must focus on the practice of ‘xoghol bil-pont’, which means, for those unaware what it implies, with a plank of wood held by two ropes which are eased gradually by the man/men on the plank should they want to go up or down.

This is a very dangerous procedure, especially in the case of inexperienced workers. It should be banned forthwith. There is no reason why we should continue with this primitive procedure when today cranes and high-ups can deliver a far safer alternative.

When buildings were low and rarely extended beyond a floor or two, the practice, though always dangerous, could lead, at most to injury. But today, when we have so many high-rises going up, such as in this very case, a mistake can lead to a death following a fall of, say, seven storeys.

Generally speaking, as we can see from a cursory look around us, it is only the small and out-moded contractors who still use the procedure. The others, those who are going places, have come round to use better, and safer, equipment.

One should not expect the associations grouping the contractors to agree to this. But Parliament can perhaps see the reasoning and should act in the national interest.

This editorial was published in The Malta Independent printed edition.

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