None of the 280 decided judicial cases related to health and safety violations over a period of seven years have ever led to any of the contravening employers spending time in jail, The Shift has learned.
Between 2013 – 2020, 280 cases against employers accused of health and safety violations in the work place were adjudicated, but not one resulted in a conviction that actually put the guilty behind bars.
The data presented by OHSA was already partly highlighted earlier last week as public outrage erupted over the roadside dumping of grievously injured construction worker, Lamin Jaiteh. The Gambian worker’s plight, after he was discovered lying by a pavement in Selmun on 28 September, has yet again brought the unregulated practices of the industry under the spotlight.
According to the CEO of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), judicial penalties on conviction can include imprisonment for a period of not more than two years or a judicial fine ranging anywhere between €466 and €11,647.
OHSA CEO Mark Gauci said that “over the years, there were several cases of imprisonment, but these were given in the form of suspended sentences” without presenting a specific amount of such cases given that all sentences handed out would have to be reviewed to determine the amount.
While these 280 cases were decided since 2013, a total of 706 new judicial cases were started throughout the same 7-year period, with 2020 being a notable exception featuring 0 new cases since no new cases were appointed by the law courts from February onward.
As for the amount of inspections carried out by health and safety officials, by far the largest share of inspections every year from 2013 to 2020 were always carried out on construction sites, specifically.
In total, OHSA data for these same seven years indicates that the number of inspections being carried out has increased, although not in a linear fashion as some years saw smaller numbers of inspections than the preceding year. 2020 saw the highest number of inspections carried out, standing at 4947.
The lowest number of inspections carried out was in 2015, with a total of 2139 inspections in a year which saw a significant amount of high-profile cases of injuries and deaths on the workplace.
In particular, the case of teenager Matthew Bartolo, who had died in 2015 while working for Construct Furniture when he was trapped in a woodworking machine, had sent shockwaves throughout the nation. Since the case was last reported in 2018, it remains unclear whether this case has reached any conclusion and whether the Bartolo family has been compensated for their loss.
Three years later, Bartolo’s parents had filed a judicial protest addressed to the police commissioner and the OHSA, arguing that disorganisation and a serious lack of communication between the entities was prejudicing their case.
Besides the criminal charges of involuntary homicide filed against Bartolo’s employers, another case involving the death of a worker that had resurfaced in newspaper headlines in 2015 was related to the death of a Latvian construction worker named Maksims Artamonovs, another case which has not been reported on since 2017.
Two years later, the court had decided that there was enough evidence to indict representatives of B&B Construction Ltd, Artamonovs’ employers before he was killed in 2012 when two floors of the Seabank hotel construction site had collapsed on top of him.
As for administrative penalties, the OHSA has issued a total of €1.1 million in fines from 2013 – 2020, with a total of 2,717 fines issued. The largest amount of fines issued was in 2018, standing at 591. The lowest amount was issued in 2014, with 153 fines issued.
Jaiteh’s former employer Glen Farrugia has now been charged with a slew of crimes, related to his alleged ill-treatment of his worker.
In his shocking court testimony on Friday, Jaiteh described how poorly he was paid, how Farrugia said that if an ambulance were to be called “everyone” on the site would end up in jail and how he was rescued by passers-by who heard him crying and saying that he was dying.
After a 7-hour sitting in which defence lawyers for the contractor grilled Jaiteh over his residency and employment status as well as whether he himself played any role in the incident through his own negligence, Farrugia was released on bail.