Addressing occupational health
and safety in a changing legal scenario
Occupational health and safety standards in Malta have
been elevated to a new level thanks to the new legislative framework
passed some six months ago. But many companies in Malta are still unaware
of their responsibilities and obligations in the sphere, which are many
times regarded as little more than a nuisance by employers and workers
alike. DAVID LINDSAY meets International Safety Training Centre Managing
Director David Ghersci a long-time veteran in the field who welcomes
Maltas new face of OHS with open arms.
Occupational health and safety in Malta is more often
than not a touchy subject, with workers and employers alike in many
cases seeing the new legislation passed some six months ago as a little
more than a nuisance.
But any employer that has been affected by lost man hours due to otherwise
avoidable accidents would immediately recognise the new regulations
benefits, as would any worker that has suffered lost income or disability.
Maltas occupational health and safety scenario has been subject
to wide-ranging changes due to next Mays EU membership and with
a new legislative framework for the field being passed some six months
But long before the safety of Maltas places of work hit the spotlight
when the Occupational Health and Safety Bill began being debated in
Parliament, one company - Hal Fars International Safety Training
Centre has been active in the field with a great deal of international
In fact major corporations such as British Petroleum, ESSO, Mobil, HSBC,
BASF, Canon, EXXON, FINA, and many others have sought ISTCs services
on a repeat basis.
Now more and more of Maltas companies are making use of ISTCs
essential services, which encompass the full gamut of training including
both hands-on and classroom instruction. This new-found awareness is
thanks to the introduction of Maltas new occupational health and
safety regulations, which contemplate fines, enforceable by the Occupational
Health and Safety Authority, of up to Lm5,000 for those companies found
to be engaging in unsafe practices. The OHSA also has the power to demand
access to a factory and if denied entry they have the possibility of
closing the premises on the spot.
Figures of work hours lost due to occupational accidents have been repeated
over and over again and many employers are all-too-familiar with the
cost such accidents have on their operations, which can take the form
of having a direct or indirect impact on the running of the company.
In many cases toll is paid in both respects.
ISTC Managing Director David Ghersci welcomes the new legislation, explaining,
"At last there is someone now who is looking out for and protecting
workers health. But unfortunately workers and employers seem to
be getting the wrong message because it is, in many instances, seen
as a nuisance rather than a benefit.
"Some employers maybe still havent realised the amount of
money, time and loss of production caused by injuries brought about
by unsafe practices. Workers also see the new regulations as a nuisance
because now they have to wear their hardhats, gloves and earplugs."
However, when speaking of occupational health and safety, one must not
be misled into thinking it deals only with industrial concerns such
as factories. Indeed, the scope of occupational health and safety encompasses
all work-related aspects. Even all types of office work such
as the ergonomics of seating, brightness and tint of computer screens
and stress-related factors - have to be considered in this respect.
"In many instances the same accidents keep happening over and over
again and, unless you teach people and change the mentality, they will
continue to happen."
Ghersci insists that the problem lies in the mindset of the people involved.
He explains, "I shudder when I think of certain working practices
taking place in Malta. Health and safety issues concern all parties
involved in an enterprise - workers, their supervisors, the managers,
the board of directors, the chairman, contractors and sub contractors.
This is because the implications of one small incident can be wide ranging
and damaging to a company."
ISTC has now launched a range of courses for companies looking to up
their health and safety standards. The courses break down the new law
into laymans terms and explain the implications for managers and
ISTC is also in the process of organising four completely free of charge
seminars in which it is inviting companies from many of Maltas
various business sectors to spend a half-day, with a view to explaining
what the new legislation is about.