Construction sites at a standstill as industry adapts to new regulations

The Chamber of Architects has called on all stakeholders to abide by the new regulations • MDA chairman Sandro Chetcuti calls for transition period for industry to adapt to new rules

The majority of construction sites around Malta and Gozo were at a standstill on Wednesday as the industry adapts to new regulations published on Tuesday
The majority of construction sites around Malta and Gozo were at a standstill on Wednesday as the industry adapts to new regulations published on Tuesday

A significant number of construction sites around Malta and Gozo came to a halt on Wednesday, following the publication of new regulations on the protection of third party property which were published yesterday.

Construction workers who spoke to MaltaToday on Wednesday said they had been infored not to turn up for work this morning, with one going as far as to say that he would be going to register for work tomorrow morning.

The new rules were published yesterday following a short five-day consultation period last week. The amendments to the law were passed following a third instance of a building collapsed because of ongoing work next door.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Chamber of Architects, which has been critical of the new regulations, called on all stakeholders to abide by the new regulations. The changes, place additional responsibilities on the architects which they have argued they should not be responsible for.

“The Chamber of Architects has issued a directive this morning instructing all members of the profession to strictly abide by the regulations published yesterday by Government in the interest of public safety,” read the statement.

It added that the public needed to understand the fact that all excavation, demolition and construction works carried out in sites which are contiguous to third parties must follow the regulations.

“This includes the preparation of fresh condition reports of third-party properties, fresh method statements, revised insurance policy premium, and the appointment of an STO by the contractor, or by each individual contractor present on site. Naturally, all these new requirements could not be addressed within 24 hours but require several weeks, which include the minimum two-week period granted to the third-parties to review and possibly contest the reports and method statements,” the chamber said.

Transition period required for industry to adapt

Speaking to MaltaToday, Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti said by his estimates, some 80% of construction sites were at a standstill.

Chetcuti said that the MDA was working very hard to understand how the legal notice is to implemented.

The MDA president echoed the chamber of architects in pointing out that the new requirements would take some time to adapt to.

“It takes time for one to regularise their position,” Chetcuti said, pointing out that some requirements in the new regulations, like more detailed method statements and appointing a Site Technical Officer couldn’t be done overnight.

“We must also give architects time to understand what is required of them by this legal notice.”

Chetcuti said he expected a significant number of construction sites to start working again over the coming days. This, he said, did not mean that there wouldn’t be other problems.

Insisting that “the world can’t be changed overnight”, Chetcuti said there were issues, such as the requirement for masons and builders to be licensed, which the industry would take time to adapt to.

“It seems to me like the amendments are a step in the right direction but for example, we are aware of the fact that many masons don’t have a license, and this creates a problem for the industry,” he said.

“We can’t have a situation were, simply because you don’t have a license, then it is assumed you are not capable because some of these people are among the most skilled.”

The process by which individuals can obtain a license also needed adapting, Chetcuti said, adding that a lot of what was taught in these courses was outdated.

The MDA president suggested that a transition period could be introduced which would allow work on construction sites to continue while requirements that are not linked to safety are adhered to.

“We can’t change the world over night. These regulations are a step in the right direction and were necessary to protect third party properties but it is important that we don’t go to the other extreme,” Chetcuti said

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