The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Lives cut short at the workplace

Wednesday, 18 May 2022, 09:48 Last update: about 2 months ago

Not one single week seems to go by without there being a serious accident in a workplace.

Tens of workers are injured, some of them seriously, while others die, leaving grieving families and colleagues behind.

It happens mostly on construction sites, where the work carried out is dangerous by nature. But it is also happening elsewhere, as we saw last week at the Wastserv incinerator in Marsa.

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Lives are being cut short too often. And many workers who are injured carry the physical and psychological scars for the rest of their life. Some would not even be able to retain their job, given the extent of the injuries sustained.

Over the years, we have seen a drive by the authorities to have more safety on workplaces. More awareness has been raised on how both the employer and the employees must take extreme care when it comes to protection. We are told that inspections are carried out regularly although, as we all know, it is impossible for the Occupational Health and Safety Authority to monitor all dangerous sites around the clock.

We have seen fines for irregularities rise, but this does not seem to have worked as a deterrent.

Scaffoldings continue to sway in high winds, wooden planks give way, and ladders are turning out to be instruments of danger. Workers are seen without safety helmets, others do not wear harnesses when carrying out a job which requires one, and machinery is not properly maintained.

It often happens that footage emerges on the social media of some worker who is not following the rules. It would even be better if reports are lodged with the OHSA for it to take action immediately.

Some workers take unnecessary risks too, perhaps becoming too over-confident in what they are doing, seeing that they do it every day. They think that what happened to others will not happen to them. But it takes just one slip, just one moment of neglect or lack of concentration, for an accident to take place. And that mistake could have serious consequences.

It takes a concerted effort with the participation of all the stakeholders in order to limit the number of these accidents, in particular the potentially fatal ones.

Workers must realise that it is for their own good that all safety precautions must be taken, at any time, on any day.

Employers must provide protection to their workers, irrespective of the costs involved. Training must be provided to all employees, with courses on how to take care of themselves while on the job. Those who disobey must be disciplined, for their own good.

Health and safety professionals must also play their part, religiously conducting inspections without fear or favour, pointing out deficiencies and prohibiting the continuation of work unless these are rectified.

The government, for its part, must continue to tighten laws as well as provide more resources to the OHSA for it to carry out its duties better.

Accidents will continue to happen, but everything should be done to limit them as much as possible.

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