The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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New OHSA law to be discussed in Parliament next Monday, Prime Minister says

Saturday, 6 July 2024, 10:24 Last update: about 11 days ago

The government’s new law to strengthen the Occupational Health and Safety Authority’s functions is to be discussed in Parliament from next Monday, Prime Minister Robert Abela said.

Interviewed on party media on Saturday, Abela said that Parliament would be debating a bill which will strengthen enforcement as well as elevate the level of responsibility for workers, and all those working in the sector.

He was asked about the bill which government announced after the report on the public inquiry into Jean Paul Sofia’s death was concluded, which made multiple recommendations on the country’s construction sector.

Abela said that the bill goes beyond just health and safety in the construction sector, as the authority is responsible for all workplace incidents.

He mentioned four salient points included in the bill, which is the increase of harsher consequences over a lack of enforcement, increase the obligation towards responsibility if there are shortcomings, introduce an official as a Health and Safety Responsibility Officer, as well as create a specialised tribunal which listens to cases and appeals on health and safety at the workplace.

“The most important point in this law’s spirit is to responsibilise all those working in the sector. There needs to be safety equipment and training provided by the employer, and the worker needs to be responsible in wearing such equipment,” Abela said.

He continued that there are also obligations to the law for those who commission work, and the law will be bringing about a change in culture, “where you cannot cut corners in this sector, because of the consequences, but also as respect towards the workers’ health and life.”

Abela said that workers’ security cannot be compromised with reducing the time for a project to be completed. “The consequences are large now, even if no incident happens. If you are found with shortcomings by the OHSA, there will be consequences which will bring about a change in culture,” Abela said.

He confirmed that the OHSA has been given more human resources, with it being a work in progress, to continue to increase enforcement tools. Abela appealed for synergy from all parties, to adopt auto-enforcement themselves, and move towards new levels.

Abela said that ‘discipline’ would be the word to encapsulate the law, which will maintain justice and a level playing field for all.

He was asked about Cabinet’s statement in favour of the ex-Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne in the Vitals case, where Steward Healthcare allegedly fabricated stories about Fearne.

“There were those who truly did not like the statement, that they requested an investigation on the entire Cabinet with the Standards Commissioner,” Abela said, adding that this one person is affiliated with the PN, and was a candidate for the PN in 2017.

Abela reiterated his “clear position” on Fearne, believing he did not need to resign, as his work in the context of the hospitals’ concession and its contractual obligations, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic is known to all, and were received by acknowledgement with a certificate by the Auditor General for the correct manner Fearne did his work.

He called out the PN’s hypocrisy and those affiliated with them, with this ex-PN candidate immediately reporting to the Standards Commissioner after a statement issued by Cabinet.

Abela also called out the court case opened by Opposition Leader Bernard Grech and PN MP Adrian Delia, who are asking that the State Advocate, Abela himself, Fearne, as well as Cabinet, to pay €400 million personally, to retrieve the money back to the people.

“This is the vindictive politics the PN works with, where Grech and Delia have turned on us and our families,” Abela said, adding that the PN tried to hurt, and paralyze the Cabinet’s work.

He said that the PN continued exercising “low levels” of politics by presenting judicial protests, opening court cases and attacking civil workers.

“I will be very strong with this, as the PN crossed each line. If there were those who failed, they must bear responsibility, but I will not let Grech tarnish our reputation,” Abela said, referring to the “correct manner” which Fearne abided by in his work.

Abela also spoke about the various assembly meetings the PL has been engaging in to contribute further to the country’s vision.

“Everyone has expressed the thirst on how we want to better our country in various sectors, even local councils, where the assemblies make up many of those who were elected,” Abela said.

He said that he was satisfied with the rate of youths elected in the past elections, which is reflective of the party’s future work.

“The party will remain vibrant, burning with fire which continues all year round. There are big changes to be done, and people from all spheres want a strong party and country. We will keep being the only party which overcomes challenges over the years,” Abela said, adding that government will continue going to stakeholders of any sector, listen, and implement.

Abela also said that in the coming days, he will be inaugurating the shore-to-ship project, which cost €30 million, and which will reduce ship emissions when they dock to port by 90%, improving air quality and reducing inconveniences for residents in the area.

He said that this is one of the only unique projects in Europe, as government said ‘yes’ to more quality work, while focusing on reducing inconveniences in each sector.

Abela said that tourism is a pillar in the country’s economy, and that Malta has managed to prioritise the “shoulder months,” meaning the quieter, winter months, and created more work, and a higher quality tourist.

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