Workplace safety: a shared responsibility

The Health and Safety at Work Bill is intended to promote and ensure the safeguard of workers' health and safety while at work.

Everyone has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants in our labour market, regardless of background or origin, Prime Minister Robert Abela told Parliament during the Second Reading of the Health and Safety at Work Bill on Monday night. He called the new law an evolution of the previous one, retaining its strengths while addressing its weaknesses and adapting to current needs.

What is the new legislation about?

This Act, known as the Health and Safety at Work Bill 2024, aims to promote and ensure the safeguard of worker’s health and safety while at work. It will provide for the regulation of issues related to health and safety at work and in particular the promotion and safeguarding of workers’ health and safety. It will also provide for the exercise by, or on behalf of the authority on Health and Safety at Work, of regulatory functions in relation to issues related to the health and safety of workers at work.

Summary and background

Malta ensures workplace health and safety through the Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act (Cap. 424). This law, implemented in 2002, follows the EU Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12th June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. The current Act will be repealed and replaced by the new Act.

The proposed new Act comes after two decades of experience with the current health and safety authority (hereafter referred to as the Health and Safety at Work Authority, “HSWA”, or “the authority”). This experience provides valuable knowledge that has been used to strengthen and modernise the Act. The goal is to reflect the evolving workplace landscape and to clarify any provisions that may have been misinterpreted.

Main objectives

The main objectives of the new Act include:

  1. The restructuring of the HSWA in order to delineate the roles and responsibilities of its various elements while ensuring higher levels of governance;
  2. The removal and amendment of unclear provisions in the current Act that may give rise to misinterpretation;
  3. Encouraging a constructive dialogue between the HSWA and the constituted bodies regarding the benefits of safeguarding health and safety at work;
  4. An increase in the responsibilities of the principal and the alignment of the responsibilities of the workers with the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC;
  5. The reform of the system of administrative penalties and criminal sanctions in order to increase their deterrent effect, while ensuring a quick and effective protection;
  6. The introduction of a new, special compromise procedure;
  7. The establishment of a new Health and Safety Tribunal;
  8. The introduction of a Health and Safety Reporting Officer (“HSRO”) for certain large and high risk industries;
  9. The introduction of the concept of administrative instruments that will allow for considerably shorter periods of time for the Authority to introduce urgent regulatory measures, in order to continue to strengthen and supplement the new Act;
  10. The introduction of a system whereby administrative penalties and court judgments related to duty holders are published.

Consultation process

The process as explained above and the terms of the new Act were drafted after an extensive consultation process.

The process involved consultation with:
(i) bodies and internal structures within the HSWA;
(ii) a number of constituted bodies and Government departments, according to the Current Act;
(iii) interested parties and product suppliers in the health and safety protection sector;
(iv) the public, after the presentation of the White Paper.

During one of the consultation sessions.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday night, Jonathan Attard, Minister for Justice and the Reform of the Construction Sector, said that, following the consultation process, the Government also evaluated the conclusions of the public inquiry into the 2022 construction collapse that killed Jean Paul Sofia. He stressed, however, that for the authorities protecting workers’ health and safety is not just a legal obligation. “With this bill, we are showing our commitment and sending a clear message that the health and safety of our workers is an absolute priority,” he said.

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