OHSA does not certify buildings as Covid-19 compliant

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Updated with a statement by the Education Ministry

The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) does not certify whether buildings are in line with restrictive measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, OHSA confirmed with Newsbook.com.mt.

Education Minister Owen Bonnici was quoted saying that independent inspectors which have been approved by the OHSA are in the process of visiting each school in order to ensure that the newly announced protocols are being implemented in accordance to the guidelines set out by the health authorities. According to the minister schools which do not obtain the said certificate will not be allowed to welcome students.

Sources speaking to this newsroom have explained that anything which is related to coronavirus falls under the remit of public health and would be in the hands of the Environmental Health inspectors rather than the OHSA.

OHSA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mark Gauci, told Newsbook.com.mt that “there is no system or process for the certification by OHSA of buildings, including regards to Covid-19”.

The national entity on the other hand is responsible for occupational health and safety in Malta. It is made up of board members nominated by the Minister in consultation with tripartite members which are mainly represented by employers, employees and unions, according to the authority’s website.

The authority monitors compliance with relevant occupational health and safety legislation and take enforcement action. It also prepares regulations or Codes of Practice required to promote, maintain, and protect a high level of occupational health and safety.

It also promotes education and training on the subject as well as collates and analyses data and statistics related to occupational injuries, ill health, and deaths.

Among other duties the OHSA keeps a register of plants, installations, equipment, machinery, articles, substances, and chemicals intended for use at work which in its opinion provide a serious occupational health and safety risk. Further, the authority is also responsible for carrying out any investigation on any matter concerning occupational health and safety, as well as investigations to ascertain the level of occupational health and safety provided at any workplace.

The reopening of schools has been delayed. Students in state and church schools had to return to school on Wednesday but the Education Ministry decided last week to postpone the reopening by a week.

Teachers have returned to school on Monday morning, however students will return to their classrooms in a staggered manner between 7 and 14 October.

Some private schools have opened their doors for students as originally planned.

Schools were shut down in March following the outbreak of coronavirus in Malta.

Education Ministry reacts

The Education Ministry has issued a clarification after this article was published.

In its statement the ministry said that as an additional precaution to put everyone’s mind at rest, the ministry had issued a call for independent risk assessors to inspect each school and certify whether the buildings are compliant with the protocols issued by the health authorities.

The ministry said that these risk assessors had to be registered as competent persons with the OHSA.

The risk assessments were carried out by independent individuals.

The education ministry said that it remains committed to work with the health authorities so that the students could recommence with their studies and attend lessons in persons in an environment where the risks have been minimized.