The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Construction - More delays will lead to more tragedies

Saturday, 25 July 2020, 09:17 Last update: about 14 days ago

Malta’s lawless construction sector claimed another life this week, showing that, despite recent tragedies, not much has changed.

Construction regulations were introduced last year after a number of building collapses, but the new system immediately proved to be unsuitable, unclear and ambigious.

Despite the introduction of new roles and a lot of talk of regulating the sector, accidents are still happening and people are still dying.

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The Hamrun house collapse in March, which claimed the life of mother of two Miriam Pace, should have been the final eye opener but, in Miriam’s daughter’s own words, “nothing has changed.”

This time it was not a resident who lost her life, but a foreign construction worker. He was partially buried under the rubble of a wall that clearly looked unstable.

While we understand that investigations are underway, and one cannot immediately point fingers at any one particular individual, a lot of questions need to be asked.

Was the right machinery being used? Were the necessary precautions taken? Was the victim trained in construction and was he aware of the risks involved?

Once again, we must point out that enforcement in the sector is totally lacking. The authorities, it seems, only show up once tragedy strikes. No one is really going round construction sites to ensure that the method statements are being adhered to. All responsibility lies with the people behind the project and, unfortunately, not all of them are diligent people.

We have seen, time and time again, how certain individuals cut corners. We have seen how people involved in some of these accidents have a track record of breaking the rules, yet no form of action is taken to prevent these tragedies from happening again.

We understand that, with all the construction sites dotting the island, it is difficult for the authorities to be present at every one of them. But, given our dismal track record, and given the incessant reports that keep coming in about lack of health and safety, inspections are a must.

The government keeps telling us that the construction sector is too important for the economy, and that may very well be true. Incentives have been put in place to allow the sector to keep moving, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. But if this sector is that important, measures to ensure that accidents do not happen, and no more lives are lost, have to be given the same level of importance.

The Chamber of Architects said this week that the “systemic and fundamental” deficiencies riddling this sector must be addressed without further delay.

While acknowledging the government’s efforts to draft legislation that will bring about the much needed changes, it said it is evident that the lack of focus and resources is severely hampering progress.

The Chamber is right. The government boasts so much about our economy being resilient even during the pandemic, and on the great financial benefits of the citizenship scheme, yet this sector remains severely handicapped when it comes to resources and enforcement.

These accidents have proved, time and time again, that this is a national priority. We cannot lose more time. We cannot let more people die.

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