Saturday 25 January 2020

Construction sites should not be turned into cemeteries 

Press release by Dr Andrew Azzoapardi, Dean of Faculty for Social Well-being

I would like to express my profound concern with regards to the recent spate of accidents in the construction industry in which a number of persons have been injured while working in construction sites. Furthermore, two buildings that had people dwelling in them have collapsed next to construction sites – and all of this within a short period of time. 

The need to have a roof on one’s head and a safe environment in which to live, is basic to our wellbeing.  

Conversely, holding warranted persons responsible is an important albeit an insufficient first step.  The feeling that there is a cavalier, safety-last attitude permeating the construction industry seems to be growing and the evidence is there for all to see.  I appeal to the authorities to take this matter seriously.  

Consequently, I would like to recommend the following:

  • I appeal for a more regulated approach is required to ensure that accidents like these do not happen.  Such regulation requires the prioritization of the needs and safety of the residents. The continuous noise, dust and other disturbances have created a situation wherein residents cannot reside peacefully within their own home. While construction is an important facet of the Maltese economy it cannot and should not be given priority over the social and emotional wellbeing of residents in such a blatant way.
  • Regulation will require that all persons involved in the construction industry need to have the required training and expertise to conduct their work. This training and expertise should be represented by warrants and permits that can be revoked instantaneously should the person/s and contractor/s in question not follow protocol. This list of warranted persons should be made public and reviewed constantly to ensure that no duplicitous incompetent individuals are currently undertaking construction work.
  • Regulations need to be enforced consistently without favouritism. The mechanism for such enforcement needs to provide effective sanctioning mechanisms which include hefty fines and the removal of warrants and permits if required. This will ensure that persons and entities adopting a roughshod attitude are given strong deterrents to ignore regulations.
  • Committees and tribunals need to adhere and listen to complaints speedily and provide effective solutions. The current structure which requires dissatisfied parties to resort to the law courts for legal remedies effectively means that only those with the time and money to pursue this approach will utilize it. This can favour the magnates with ample resources who may try to coerce residents with the long delays and high legal bills.
  • There is a need for regulators and enforcement entities to monitor every development through monitoring on an ongoing basis.
  • There is also a need for civic society to be more active and effective in seeking justice towards safety and security.
  • Inquiry outcomes following major accidents should be made available to the public within a stipulated and reasonable time frame.

Finally, respect for human life and quality of life should be at the cornerstone of all development and social and emotional wellbeing should be the order of the day.  I appeal to the authorities to take this state of affairs seriously.

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