The death of a 45-year old man injured in an accident at the Delimara power station just before the New Year was the second death of a worker on the job in less than two months.
In November, a 26-year old Libyan worker Akram al-Mashay, fell to his death from around seven storeys at a construction site at Qui-Si-Sana, Sliema.
Accidents do happen but we should question whether any of these deaths could have been avoided. And the answer is, definitely, yes.
According to the General Workers Union, health and safety rules are widely ignored. Reacting to the death of Akram al-Mashay, the union said some employers still felt they could ignore health and safety regulations.
While saying that the Occupational Health and Safety Authority must be given all necessary resources to ensure that these regulations are observed both by employers and employees, the GWU said “our country can never accept in this day and age that construction workers are still working without the necessary equipment and protection.”
The most recent Occupational Health and Safety Authority annual report also confirmed that health and safety management is still lax in many workplaces putting the lives of workers at unnecessary risk.
Over 3,000 workers are injured at work every year and something must be done to ensure that all workers are given the necessary protection.
Human life is being sacrificed at the altar of profits. A rich and prosperous country should not only be judged by unemployment statistics, consumption and GDP growth.
Malta should ensure that all workers in construction and other sectors that carry huge risks – many of whom are on a minimum wage or less – are provided with adequate training, safety equipment and protection while employers should prioritise safety and make it part of their ethos.
And if they do not, then government should take action and impose the highest standards of safety. Construction sites that do not comply with rules and regulations should be shut down immediately. Repeat offenders should be heavily fined and barred from tendering for government contracts until they start observing the law to the letter.
Akram al-Mashay’s widow Amira hit the nail on its head when she said, “they (employers) should give them safety before they start working and make sure everything is right but today no one cares about safety and things, they just care about money… that’s how my husband died”.
Observing health and safety rules should not be regarded as an expense or a hindrance to business but a measure that saves lives.
Sadly, the major political parties are held captive by business moguls who bankroll them and many have been allowed to operate without observing health and safety rules.
But this must change, or we will be reading about many more deaths. And if anyone thinks health and safety law can be ignored, then they should listen to the families who have lost their loved ones in entirely avoidable accidents.