By Dr. Rebecca Mercieca – Associate
In so far as conditions of employment are concerned, the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) Act (Chapter 424 of the laws of Malta) and any regulations issued thereunder are deemed to form part of the recognised conditions of employment of employees.
It is the duty of the employer to ensure the health and safety of all persons who may be affected by the work being carried out for the employer. It is furthermore the employer’s duty to provide information, instruction, training and supervision as is required to ensure occupational health and safety. Every worker, on the other hand is bound by the duty to co-operate with the employer and with the Health and Safety Representative/s at the workplace on all matters relating to health and safety while safeguarding his own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by reason of the work carried out.
An employer is bound to take measures to prevent physical and psychological occupational ill-health, injury or death, on the basis of the general principles of prevention, that is by;
(a) the avoidance of risk;
(b) the identification of hazards associated with work;
(c) the evaluation of those risks which cannot be avoided;
(d) the control at source of those risks which cannot be avoided;
(e) the taking of all the necessary measures to reduce risk as much as possible;
(f) giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures;
(g) adapting the work to the worker, particularly when adopting safe and appropriate production methods;
(h) adapting to technical progress in the interest of occupational health and safety; and
(i) the development of a coherent overall prevention policy which covers technology, the organisation of work, working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors related to the working environment.
Inter alia, the Occupational health and Safety Authority, carries out investigations on matters concerning occupational health and safety, including the investigations of any accident, injury, disease or death occurring as a result, or by reason of, any association with work. Its officers may also enter into any place of work freely and without previous notice at any time of day or night and to examine the workplace.
Persons in contravention of the OHSA Act itself or any regulations made under the Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction before the Court of Magistrates sitting as a court of criminal judicature, shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of not more than 2 years or to a fine of not less than € 465.87 but not exceeding €11,646.87,or to both such fine and imprisonment. Moreover the Court may, at the request of the prosecution, cancel all or any licences, warrants or permits issued to or in the name of the person found guilty in connection with the work place where the offence was committed.
The OHSA Act applies to all work places and to all sectors of work activity, both public and private, and to all work activities, barring activities carried out by members of a disciplined force; such as activities relating to civil emergencies, public order, national security or operations by the military which inevitably conflict with it.
References: Chapters 424 and 452 of the Laws of Malta.