The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Guardamangia: Authorities can act only if reports are made - Architects President; OHSA replies

Albert Galea Thursday, 25 April 2019, 13:50 Last update: about 5 months ago

It is the contractor and the architect of a project who are responsible for ensuring that the method statement, as established at the beginning of the project, is adhered to on a day-to-day basis and not any specific authority, the President of the Chamber of Architects Simone Vella Lenicker told this newsroom.

Contacted by The Malta Independent the day after a three-storey block of flats partially collapsed in Gwardamangia, Vella Lenicker said that making sure that the construction method statement of a particular project is adhered to did not fall within the remit of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) and that the Building Regulation Office (BRO) is only obliged to check that the method statement of a specific site is being followed after they receive a report on it.

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"It is the direct responsibility of the site manager/s appointed by the developer to ensure that the construction method statement is adhered to", she said.

"Nevertheless, both the BRO and the OHSA have the legal remit to monitor construction sites, to carry out spot checks, either of their own accord as well as following reports by third parties, and to enforce accordingly", she added. "Neither the OHSA nor the BRO have the necessary resources to monitor sites on a daily basis,however from our experience they do take reports seriously and follow up accordingly", she said.

Residents speaking to this newsroom said that they had filed reports on the site and that an architect – presumably an architect engaged by the contractor – had, on three occasions earlier this year, gone to survey cracks in the walls of the building that is now partially collapsed and certified it as being structurally sound.

Asked by this newsroom whether the Chamber had identified who the architect of the project adjacent to the collapsed block of flats is, Vella Lenicker replied in the negative, but added that if the court finds that there was negligence on the part of the architect then the Chamber will recommend to the Minister responsible – in this case Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Minister Ian Borg – that the necessary action be taken.

When asked what the extent of such action could be, Vella Lenicker said that it could extend to the revocation of the said architect’s warrant.

Asked to comment on the above observations, and not specifically referring to the Guardamangia incident, OHSA chief executive officer Mark Gauci noted that both the OHS Authority Act as well as the building Regulation Act permit both entities (ie OHSA and BRO) to act on their own initiative and without having to wait for a report or complaint to be lodged, he said

In the case of OHSA, section 9 (2) (d) of the OHS Authority Act, requires the authority to monitor compliance with relevant OHS legislation and to take enforcement action. The same legislation grants adequate executive powers to OHS officers to fulfil such a function.

In the case of the BRO, the legislation requires the Director of the Building Regulation Office to monitor methodologies being carried out on site and see that they are in line with the method statement submitted (regulation 13 (d) of the Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations.

Nowhere is it stated, in either legislative framework (occupational health and safety/building legislation) that “OHSA or BRO can only act if a report is made”.

In the case of OHSA, it can be confirmed that the large majority of inspections carried out by OHS Officers are proactive ones, organised without a complaint having been lodged. You may wish to confirm with BRO regarding whether the situation is the same in their regard, Gauci said.

 

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