Moviment Graffitti has deplored the current state of the construction sector, wherein a system of shoddy practices, lack of enforcement and policies designed to favour the development lobby have led to yet another tragedy, this time fatal.
“The sector is in shambles. There were many collapses last year and the lessons from them have been ignored. A hasty legal notice was drafted and branded as a reform, with the sole intention of allowing the construction lobby to do as it pleases – and the construction lobby has a direct interest in not letting any serious reforms see the light of day. The residents’ rights are being systematically ignored. We are now staring at a national tragedy, with a woman killed under the rubble of her own home.”
Moviment Graffitti has also issued a set of proposals for an overhaul of the laws and regulations in the construction sector, as part of a wider set of proposals tackling planning, the environment, the ecosystem, transportation and large-scale projects. The full document, titled Reforming Planning and Construction in Malta, has been drafted with the participation of legal and technical experts and will be presented to the authorities in the coming weeks.
The proposals related to the regulation of the construction industry are as follows:
- A contractors’ register must be created with criteria for the licensing and classification of each contractor, while legal provisions for developers to enter into a formal contract with building contractors should be stringent and enforced in order to ensure accountability;
- The creation of a government-run registry of developers’ companies and contractors effectively revoking the agreement between the MDA and the Building Regulation Office (BRO) for the administration of this registry;
- The creation of a public complaints system and a register of these complaints that ensures transparency, whereby proven repeated complaints should lead to the blacklisting of contractor/developer by the use of a penalty points system.
Issuing of Permits
- The number of permits executed concurrently in a set area should be limited. Where permits involve the use of heavy vehicles and machinery for purposes including but not limited to demolition and excavation works, a delay of the commencement of works by a suitable period of time should be imposed so as not to inconvenience residents with an excessive amount of construction work in their area;
- A limit on the number of road closures and parking slots stolen from residents.
Health and Safety
- A set of laws that impose decent standards to safeguard the residents’ health and safety in areas close to construction sites;
- A serious enforcement of the laws regulating construction, to give, without exception, protection and dignity to workers and residents alike;
- The amendment of the law to allow no more than eight hours of construction work during the day, commencing from no earlier than 8am;
- Costs for accommodation and compensation for the property and contents lost, as well as legal, psychological and logistical support for residents affected by accidents, should be paid for from a fund until responsibility is legally established. Whoever is found to be responsible is then to refund all expenses taken from the fund.
- An ongoing audit of all construction sites in activity;
- Risk assessments to be carried out when handling construction waste so as to minimise particulate matter emissions;
- Any reasonable costs incurred by residents in ensuring their own safety should be billed to the developer.
- The provision of adequate resources to the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) and to the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) to ensure that construction workers are not exploited. The exploitation of workers should be heavily penalised and contractors who exploit workers should have their license to operate withdrawn;
- Employers in the construction industry to be legally obliged to pay accident insurance for their workers. This measure:
i. ensures that workers who suffer injuries receive compensation in a speedy manner
ii. puts the responsibility on contractors and developers to uphold health and safety standards, since insurance companies will not accept to pay claim settlements for sites that do not conform with these standards.
- The strengthening of the resources and enforcement powers of the Police, DIER, OHSA and the BRO in relation to illegalities and unsafe practices, and the rights of citizens to have recourse whenever these entities do not act on their complaints.
Moviment Graffitti reiterates its call to the authorities to ensure proper enforcement of all building sites in Malta, until a proper, fully-fledged reform is launched to put an end, once and for all, to these tragedies brought about by greed and bullying.