[WATCH] Updated | New building safety law in the pipeline but when?

‘It’s a myth to believe stone buildings don’t catch fire,’ Planning Minister Ian Borg says, as he promises new building safety regulations specific to Malta  

Ian Borg on building safety regulations
Ian Borg on building safety regulations
Last Sunday, a man died while trying to put out the flames in the apartment below his in Marsaskala
Last Sunday, a man died while trying to put out the flames in the apartment below his in Marsaskala

Updated at 5pm with Malta Developers Association reaction

New building safety legislation will include provisions for the setting up of an ad-hoc regulator and the introduction of fire safety regulations specific to Malta, the minister for planning said this morning.

During a conference on fire safety organised by the Chamber of Engineers, Ian Borg said that - for the most part - satisfactory legislation was already in place but needed to be brought together under one central authority. 

After a 35-year-old man died of smoke inhalation when his apartment caught fire on Sunday, it was even more apparent that a legislative was needed. 

“For too long we have adopted UK standards across the board, when it is now clear that not only have those standards failed the UK itself on occasion, but they are definitely not suitable for our country, our buildings, climate and other factors,” Borg said. 

Borg said that a consultation process was already launched under the previous administration and  that they are now pursuing that with focus on introducing a comprehensive bill as soon as possible.

“People need to understand that the claim that Maltese buildings could not catch fire, being built of stone, is a myth,” he said.  

The widespread use of air conditioners and heating appliances, as well as plush furnishings, even the paint and material used in home decor, was simply increasing the fire hazard in homes. 

He noted that the building industry was very conscious of the risk and very meticulous in including up to date safety equipment and technology in modern buildings. 

However, to regulate what the private home owner did behind closed doors would be impossible. 

“But we will definitely look into the possibility of setting standards for common areas in multi-unit buildings, of which we are seeing more and more being built,” Borg said.

Developers say changes are urgent

The Malta Developers Association has welcomed the news that laws on protection against fires in buildings are to be consolidated as part of the reform in the construction sector.

The association said existing laws were sporadic and fragmented and change was needed urgently.

The Planning Authority at present requires a report on fire safety in places that are open to the public and in garage complexes, which are often below street level, the MDA said.

"In the light of the recent incident in which a person suffocated in the common parts of a block of apartments, it is clear that even regulations on these apartment blocks, which consist of a number of separate residences and duplexes, are needed," the MDA said, adding it wanted to cooperate by giving government its advice on the matter.