04 June 2003

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MEA annual conference focuses on EU Health and Safety standards

"Adopting EU Occupational Health and Safety Standards – A Mutual Benefit to Social Partners" was this year’s focus for the conference held by The Malta Employers’ Association last week. The conference was carried out in co-operation with the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, Bank of Valletta plc, Central Cigarette Company Ltd, Marsovin Ltd, Middlesea Group, Airmalta plc and Simonds Farsons Cisk plc.
In the Welcome address Dr. Paul De Battista, President of the Malta Employers’ Association held "Together, unions, employers and the Authority should work hand in hand to educate all the parties concerned and to effect implementation." He also put emphasis on the need to tackle the problems related to stress at work which, as underlined in the address of Hon. Dolores Cristina, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social Policy, could be the result of new hazards in the workplace, consisting of harassment and discrimination as well as bullying by their workmates.
The variety of speakers included a foreign speaker, Nick Starling (Director Safety Policy Health and Safety Executive, United Kingdom). The speakers deliberated on different aspects of this subject matter. The role of the Occupational Health and Safety was expressed by Dr. Mark Gauci, (CEO, Occupational Health and Safety Authority) Dr. Roselyn Borg (Executive EU & Legal Affairs, Malta Employers’ Association) gave a presentation highlighting the legal aspect of Occupational Health and Safety, Charlot Caruana (Health and Safety Coordinator, Baxter Ltd), Louis Naudi (Group Director of Human Resources, Island Hotel Groups) and John Spiteri (Health and Safety Manager, Simonds Farsons Cisk plc) explained the practical implementation of Health and Safety within their respective companies. Moreover a trade union approach, a statistical study, and the role of the Injuries Board were presented.
The speakers put forward an advanced understanding and a further awareness of this area under constant discussion to the well-attended conference.
Joe Gerada, Health and Safety Officer, Union Haddiema Maqghudin emphasized on the importance of having Health and Safety Representatives at the work place, "Safety representatives are a must in today’s shop world and should be followed not only on paper but in real terms….Committees that should be a mixture of workers and managers on equal footing ready to discuss any health and safety topics." The importance of the understanding of Health and Safety Regulations by the worker was highlighted by the President of the General Workers Union, Saviour Sammut, "The worker should bear in his mind that if he is injured, besides his physical self, there are his dependants who will also suffer with him." Secretary General of the Confederation of Maltese Trade Unions, Charles Magro said that "employers must perceive the provision of a safe and healthy environment as an investment…The worker will be more keen to give in his daily input, and he will be well worth his salary."
Dr. Mark Gauci when elaborating on The OHSA said that the Authority "ultimately has one primary goal - to reduce injuries and illnesses at places of work, for the benefit of all stakeholders." He also made an appeal to employers "to first avoid risks, evaluate those that cannot be avoided and control them at source." The role of the Injuries Board was clarified by Edward Gatt, Director, Social Services Security Department wherein he also focused on claims for Injury Benefit, Grants or Pensions which need to be medically examined by the Medical Panel appointed for the purpose.
Alfred Camilleri, Director General, National Statistics Office said that the number of work days lost because of accidents in the workplace cost around Lm1.4 million last year and a total of 190.8 million was spent on social security benefits. Moreover, Mr Camilleri said 76,851 work days were lost because of accidents in the workplace, with the number of accidents accumulating to 4,936.
As Dr De Battista accentuated "The Malta Employers' Association is involved in the dialogue about Occupational Health and Safety on an international level through its participation in the International Organisation of Employers. In fact, OHS will be one of the main debates in this year's International Labour Organisation Conference in a few days time"

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Editor: Saviour Balzan
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