‘Urgent’ health and safety legislation left idle for a year

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s sudden urgency to reform the Health and Safety Authority is just another public relations exercise, according to experts who spoke to The Shift.

Abela told MPs they would not be released for summer recess until the new law is approved by parliament, but sources inside the Authority said the draft law has been sitting on his desk since at least August 2023.

“The current draft law, which Abela is now dubbing a revolutionary piece of legislation, is nothing of the sort,” senior officials said. “On the contrary, it’s a watered-down version of what experts proposed to the prime minister a year ago.”

The current Bill being debated in parliament is aimed at widespread health and safety abuses by the construction industry.

After Jean Paul Sofia’s death, a December 2022 administrative inquiry set out recommendations for the necessary changes.

The Health and Safety Authority immediately started working to implement these changes, which included a revamp of the legislation to make it more robust and enforceable.

A board composed of government and social partner representatives sent a complete draft Bill to the prime minister by August 2023.

Following lobbying by the construction industry, Abela left the draft Bill on his desk and only presented a watered-down version to parliament a few weeks ago.

A step backwards

The version of the Bill Abela finally presented to parliament is a watered-down version of what was originally proposed, according to experts, including board members of the Authority.

In some instances, the new draft law is regressive compared to the laws currently in place, they added.

“Developers are obliged to carry out a risk assessment before they can start a project, and if they do not, they are liable to criminal action,” sources said. “This has now been decriminalised and turned into just another administrative issue. This means that while until now ignoring a risk assessment might cause you an arraignment in court, the new legislation would let you off with a fine.”

Experts also said the government removed a proposal from the draft Bill that required the Authority to have a board of governance composed of technical experts that would be separate from the government-dominated board of directors.

Scrapping this proposal allows the government to keep political control over whatever action is supposed to be taken by the Authority, which is completely controlled by the government.

Earlier this year, the prime minister appointed Josianne Cutajar as CEO despite being a general medical practitioner with no relevant knowledge. She was also allowed to continue working as a doctor in her private clinic in breach of the standards set by Abela when he took office.

                           

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3 Comments
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makjavel
makjavel
5 days ago

The PN , should request for the original proposed version presented by the experts board ,to Parlament .
WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW.

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
5 days ago

No surprise here: Friends and friends of friends!

Mark
Mark
5 days ago

Malta usual tactic, wasting time and not deciding, the works should be blocked until the new law is ready, then you will see that they will be quick to do it

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