Trade unions were against health and safety issues on the workplace, but have now understood their importance to safeguard workers, Occupational Health and Safety Authority chief executive officer Mark Gauci said.
Interviewed by The Malta Independent online editor Stephen Calleja on Indepth, Gauci recalled a day when a prominent trade unionist attacked him for promoting health and safety issues, believing that workers should not be told about risks but should be given a job.
These things have changed, he said, and both unions and employers understand the need for workers to be made aware of the risks involved in their job and also given the necessary training to carry out their duties in the safest way possible.
The number of workplace deaths was cut down from five per 100,000 in 2002 to less than one per 100,000 workers in the 15 years since the Gauci said.
Gauci said that this can be described as a success story. Before the inception of the OHSA, little was said about health and safety issues and, worse than this, initially there was opposition to the introduction of measures to safeguard workers’ health. Matters have fortunately changed and nowadays, the awareness that has been raised has resulted in fewer accidents at work.
What irritates the OHSA chief is that often the authority is blamed for matters for which it is not responsible. The OHSA works within established parameters and it is often other entities who should be held accountable when accidents happen.
Health and safety issues have become so ingrained in our society that fingers are pointed at the OHSA each time something happens, when it is other entities who should be liable, Gauci said.
The CEO said that it is impossible for the OHSA to be present in all workplaces at all times, and urged collaboration from the public when health and safety infringements are noticed.