The construction industry has undergone significant changes over time, both in terms of roles and legal requirements. However, there is still a prevalent misconception that a construction site only needs a perit and a contractor to commence work. Indeed, until the early 2000s, courts used to rule that periti were not only responsible for the structural integrity of the buildings but also for the health and safety of those present on the construction site.

One notable legal change in Malta, however, occurred in 2004 when Legal Notice 281 was enacted shortly after the country joined the European Union. This regulation was later replaced by Legal Notice 88 in 2018.

These legal notices mandate that clients commissioning construction projects lasting longer than 30 working days, employing more than 20 workers simultaneously, or involving a work volume exceeding 500 person-days (which applies to most construction sites) must appoint a health and safety project supervisor.

The supervisor’s primary objective is  to protect workers and prevent accidents and occupational health hazards by coordinating their activities. The role of this supervisor, therefore, intrinsically entails coordinating contractors while ensuring worker safety throughout the project.

Clearly, this means that the supervisor plays a crucial role in implementing preventive measures and safety protocols beyond mere compliance with worker safety attire. 

Although the specific hours of on-site presence required for the health and safety supervisor are not explicitly mentioned in the law, considering the coordination aspect emphasized in the legislation, their presence on-site is crucial and intrinsically mandated for effective coordination. It goes without saying that without being physically present to oversee operations, one cannot address any potential risks promptly.

Mere presence, however, is not enough.

It is equally essential – and the law is silent on such matter – that supervisors must have a solid understanding of structures and load paths, as construction activities heavily depend on manipulating load paths. Without this knowledge, accurately identifying potential stability risks becomes challenging. To illustrate this point, ensuring safety goes beyond just having a protected gangway, it also involves ensuring that the railing is robust enough to withstand the applied forces.

Considering everything mentioned, I do have another specific concern regarding instances where clients neglect to appoint a supervisor. In such cases, according to this law, the client automatically assumes the role of the supervisor. In such critical scenarios that demand coordination among contractors, prioritization of worker safety, and a comprehensive understanding of the construction process, it is disconcerting that anyone, regardless of qualifications, can assume the role of a supervisor as permitted by the law. This raises substantial questions and concerns.