The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Two to three LSEs injured carrying vulnerable children on the workplace per week – UPE

Albert Galea Friday, 22 March 2019, 13:10 Last update: about 2 years ago

Two to three Learning Support Educators (LSEs) are injured on the workplace every week from being obliged to carry vulnerable children without any training or assistance, something which is in breach of the European Union’s regulations on the matter, the Union for Professional Educators (UPE) said in a press conference on Friday.

Speaking outside the Ministry for Education and Employment, UPE Executive Chairman Graham Sansone quoted the job description parameters used for state and church schools for LSEs, which states that “lifting up to 27 kilograms shall be undertaken by one LSE”.

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Sansone also quoted the same handbook – which was first published in 2007 – and stated the both the Education Ministry and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) were meant to hold a bi-annual review of the guidelines with a view of either confirming them or adjusting them to ensure the health and safety of the employees concerned.

At the moment, he said, LSEs receive no training on how to carry these vulnerable children and there is no obligation for other educators to aid them, a situation which has consequently resulted in there being a number of injuries on the workplace.  He said that the average state and church school would have between five and seven cases which would require an LSE to have to carry or hoist a child.

“Unfortunately the Ministry for Education and the OHSA expect LSEs to lift more than a 7-inch concrete brick that weighs 26.65 kilograms.  One has to keep in mind that a concrete brick is immobile, unlike vulnerable children in our care.  In practice, an LSE lifts more than a builder on a daily basis”, the Union said.

Sansone lamented that the union had met and contacted the ministry’s permanent secretary Frank Fabri in order to acquire copies of the five reports which were meant to have been carried out since the handbook was issued in 2007, but had received an unsatisfactory response.  This response leads the UPE to think that the reports were either never done or were never acted upon, Sansone said.

The Executive Chairman later said that the Union had raised this concern in a meeting with Fabri on 8 March and that they had contacted him against two days ago.  Fabri’s response to the latter, Sansone said, was that the union would receive a response from the competent authorities; however nothing, thus far, has been received.

He said that the union will take all the necessary steps in order for this guideline, which he described as excessive, to be rectified accordingly, and added that if the ministry does not take the necessary steps then the union does not exclude using legal means and reporting the matter to the European Agency for Health and Safety.

He also called for the weights to be revised to be in line with EU standards – which state that an employee cannot carry more than 10 kilograms in weight by themselves – and for there to be a system to provide adequate training to LSEs in this regard so that the safety of both the educator and the child are assured.

He said that there needs to be a system which obliges a second educator to – when necessary – provide help to the LSE having to carry the child.

Asked why this issue was being brought up now even though it has been ongoing since 2007, Sansone said that he was surprised that the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) had never brought this up.  He noted that it was clear that it was the UPE which was truly representing educators by bringing concerns such as these.

 

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