The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: New OHSA chairman - A hope for safer construction sites

Monday, 2 August 2021, 08:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

The appointment of architect David Xuereb as the head of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority hopefully bodes for a better-regulated and ultimately safer construction industry.

There have been countless incidents at construction sites, and there continue to be.  We’ve seen many pictures of practices which are questionable at best when it comes to safety.

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It’s clear that safety in the construction industry, or the lack thereof, remains a grave issue: be it because contractors do not bother to enforce basic safety practices, or because construction workers aren’t correctly trained in the industry.

The OHSA as an authority is tasked with the regulation of safety of employees at workplaces and legislate for this to be maintained in order to mitigate any potential injuries or deaths from occurring, among other issues.

“Our primary aim is to keep on reducing risk at the place of work, of course. So it’s not just the deaths, but also the near-misses, the injuries, all those things that can affect the life of any individual in our society, whether Maltese or not, as he or she forms part of our society”, Xuereb told The Malta Independent on Sunday in an interview.

Asked about the safety aspect of the industry he noted that if developers, contractors, architects, engineers, and regulators do not collectively “up their ante and live up to professional expectations seriously… it is perhaps the reason why the building industry looks so bad.”

It is fundamental that authorities like the OHSA along with others responsible for this sector like the Building & Construction Agency emphasise on the need for this sector to become more serious and to become safer.

The sooner the infamous ‘cowboy contractors’ are eradicated from the industry, the better for both the public and for the industry itself.

The fact that the government have opted to appoint someone like Xuereb to the role – especially as he comes off the back of an important tenure leading the Malta Chamber of Commerce – rather than a political lackey (former PL MP Manuel Mallia was the previous chairman) is a good sign of intent.

The construction industry remains a significant one in Malta’s economy – but health and safety is one of the areas where it has suffered most.

Hopefully Xuereb’s appointment will be able to push through the changes in both legislation and enforcement needed to make sure that no more lives are lost at construction sites and that those who feel like they can get away with whatever they want in terms of industry practices cease to do so.

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