OSH system at national level - Malta

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  IOM

Juliet Hassard, Ceri Jones, Tom Cox Birkbeck College, University Of London

Occupational safety and health legislative framework

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta[1] (hereinafter referred to as the "OHSA Act") and through subsidiary legislation. The national legislative framework follows a European preventive approach. Malta's accession to the European Union (EU) brought with it the transposition and implementation of EU Directives in the Maltese legal order so much so that nowadays Maltese OHS regulations reflect the provisions and principles laid down in European OHS Directives.

The Framework Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989[2] on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work is primarily implemented in Malta by the OHSA Act and the General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, S.L.424.18. The remaining directives were transposed into specific regulations. The OHSA Act and subsidiary regulations can be accessed through the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government Website - Laws of Malta[3].

The OHSA Act is the primary piece of legislation covering OHS in Malta. being an enabling Act, the OHSA Act grants the Minister responsible for OHS the power to make regulations in relation to OHS matters. the enactment of the OHSA Act brought with it an extensive change in the Maltese OHS legislative framework. Besides making it clear that the protection of workers from accidents is of public interest, it also introduced a number of principles which were not previously found in Maltese OHS legislation including, (i) the applicability of the OHSA Act to all spheres of work activity carried out by the private and public sectors, (ii) the inclusion of self-employed persons, (iii) the introduction of the 'general principles of prevention through a hierarchy of control measures, (iv) the rights of workers to participate and be involved in the decision making process on all aspects of OHS, and (v) the representation of social partners at Board level.

The OHS Act lays down the general duty of care of employers, self-employed persons and workers. In terms of such Act, employers have the general duty to ensure the health and safety at all times of all persons who may be affected by the work being carried out for such employers[4]. OHSA Act also provides that the measures that need to be taken by employers to prevent physical and psychological occupational ill-health, injury or death, must be taken on the basis of the general principles of prevention[5]. Such principles establish the foundation of assessing and managing risks on the basis of a hierarchy of controls. On the other hand, self-employed persons and workers have the general duty to safeguard their own health and safety and that of other persons who can be affected by their work activities[6]. Furthermore, workers also have the duty to co-operate with their employer and Health and Safety Representative/s. further generic and specific duties on employers, self-employed persons and workers may also be found in subsidiary regulations enacted under the OHSA Act[7]. Such regulations not only provide further duties but also introduced additional duty holders.

Whilst traditionally duty holders were limited to the employer, self-employed persons and workers, the Work Place (Minimum Health and Safety Requirements for Work at Construction Sites), Regulations, introduced two additional duty holders - the 'Client' and 'Project Supervisor'[8]. However, such roles are strictly limited to construction activities. The said regulations reflect the provisions laid down in Council Directive 92/57/EEC of 24 June 1992[9] on the implementation of minimum safety and health requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites.

National strategy and programmes

OHSA is of central importance in developing and driving national level occupational health and strategy and programmes, initiatives and policies. In 2007, the OHSA published the Strategic Plan 2007 to 2012, a national plan for occupational health and safety ("Occupational Health and Safety: Consolidating achievements and engaging further commitment, Strategic plan: 2007 to 2012") [10]. The strategy aimed to ensure that the OHSA fulfils its responsibilities in the field of occupational health and safety, whilst continuing to install a sense of responsibility and commitment from its social partners. The strategy stated Malta’s commitment to actively participate effectively in discussions regarding the continuous development of occupational and safety levels within the European Union community. It also gave direction by identifying a number of key priority areas. It featured as one of its key objectives to achieve an ongoing, sustainable and consistent reduction in accidents and injuries at work, and occupational illness and disease. This was achieved mostly through initiatives taken by OHSA-Malta which address a number of priority areas highlighted in the strategy, which included the organisation of a wide range of awareness-raising activities promoting a culture of risk prevention.

The current Strategic Plan for Occupational Health and Safety 2014-2020 [11] was published in 2015. It continues to build on what has been achieved to date, and is intended to present the intention and direction of OHSA. The vision of the Strategic Plan is the development of a culture, which goes beyond the workplace, which adopts a holistic view of health and that values risk prevention. Appropriate preventative measures will be in place in all workplaces in Malta to minimize the possibility and severity of occupational incidents and illness. The ultimate goal is zero preventable incidents that can affect OHS.

Following objectives are laid down in the Strategic Plan 2014-2020:

Legislation, compliance and enforcement:

  • Continuous development of an effective legislative framework, achieved through the meaningful consultation of all stakeholders;
  • Development of a consistent and transparent enforcement process model that ensures compliance with health and safety legislation; the support of duty holders, especially SMEs to help them achieve compliance, including by the dissemination of adequate information and guidance, and the provision of advice to all who require it;
  • Soliciting action and initiatives by all duty holders to decrease reliance on OHSA services, while ensuring the competence of services provided by 'external competent persons

Capacity building:

  • The development of the Authority’s human resources through recruitment and training, and the availability of information and tools to assist OHS Officers and other employees of the Authority.

Communicating the benefits of OHS, through:

  • seeking partnerships with all stakeholders so as to develop a preventive culture that encourages holistic approaches towards healthy lifestyles; increasing the level of awareness regarding the benefits of adequate health and safety levels;
  • disseminating information on the evaluation of risks and their control;
  • promoting and carrying out training.

Taking appropriate action against existing and emerging risks:

  • Fostering and promoting action against both traditional risks and emerging ones, based on appropriate research;
  • Improving the quality of service provided by occupational health service providers, and improving the effectiveness of health surveillance.

Evaluating effectiveness of actions taken:

  • Actions will be assessed against KPIs (Key Performance indicators) determined or adopted by the authority, whilst ensuring the efficiency of all services provided. The KPIs are a mix between 'leading' indicators that relate more to the progress of OHSA actions and productivity as well as the 'lagging' indicators that relate to the effect the OHSA actions are having in the workplace[11].

The three main tripartite social dialogue institutions for OHS are: The Employment Relations Board (ERB), the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA).

Social dialogue

The established model of industrial relations in Malta is that of a voluntary, bipartite, collective bargaining at the enterprise level, in a traditionally polarised relationship between employers and trade unions. However, in recent decades, a pattern of corporate, tripartite, national level bargaining, based on a model of social dialogue, has begun to gradually emerge [12].

Social dialogue at national level

The Employment Relations Board (ERB), the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) are the three main tripartite social dialogue institutions that deal with working conditions. During the last years, these three bodies were instrumental in bringing significant changes at both enterprises, sectoral and national levels [12].

The ERB is a tripartite consultative body set up by government under the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, 2002 [13]. The board comprises four representatives, four employees’ representatives and four members appointed by the government. The board has to be consulted before the publication of any employment-related legal notices. Hence, the social partners, through the ERB, have a direct effect on Maltese legislation [12].

The MCESD, established in 1988 and given legal status by an Act of Parliament (Act XV, Chapter 431) in 2001, is a legal consultative and advisory body to the government. The council provides a forum for consultation on economic and social development issues for social partners [12].

OHSA is a tripartite body - its board is composed of members representing the Government, employee and employer interests. such composition facilitates the participation of social partners. the involvement of social partners and other stakeholders in policy decisions regulating OHS is a key feature of social dialogue and it facilitates and ensures the efficient, effective design and implementation of policies and strategies on OHS. Social partners and other stakeholders are also involved in the organisation of OHS awareness activities which are regularly organised by OHSA.

Social dialogue at sectoral level

At a sectoral level, as covered in Section 3.1, the three main dialogue institutions that handle working conditions are The Employment Relations Board (ERB), the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) [12]. In practice however, social dialogue at sectoral level is often a matter between the employers' associations and the workers' Union representing the workers in that sector.

Social dialogue at enterprise level

At the enterprise level, it is the duty of the employer to ensure that Worker’s Health and Safety Representative or Representatives are chosen, elected or designated; and, in turn, that they are consulted in advance by the employer on matters that may affect occupational health and safety. The procedure of appointment/ selection of a WHS representative is regulated by LN 36 of 2003 (General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations) [14], and revolves around the principle that WHS representatives should be appointed by workers themselves. In addition, as specified by the legislative framework, it is the duty of every worker to co-operate with the employer and with the Health and Safety Representative or Representatives at the workplace on all matters pertaining to health and safety [15] [16].

OSH infrastructure

OSH infrastructure scheme

The main stakeholders involved in relation to occupational health and safety in Malta are the Government, workers (& their representatives) and the employers (& their representatives).

National competent bodies

OSH authorities and inspection services

Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA)

The occupational safety and health national infrastructure is structured and influenced by OHSA which was established by the OHSA Act. OHSA is the national entity enforcing OHS legislation. In terms of the said Act, OHSA is responsible for ensuring that the physical, psychological and social well being of all workers in all work places are promoted and to ensure that they are safeguarded by whosoever is so obliged to do[17]. the OHSA Act also lays down a general duty on OHSA to see that the levels of OHS protection established by the said Act and subsidiary regulations are maintained. this is achieved through various measures including but not limited to, inspection campaigns and awareness raising activities.

The Authority considers enforcement as one of its key core functions – the purpose of enforcement is to ensure that duty holders effectively control risks at their place of work. Through the enactment of the Act (Act XXVII of 2000) [16], a number of health and safety officers were appointed by the OHSA. Inspections are carried out by OHSA Officers who are appointed under Article 16 of the OHSA Act. the Act provides officers with a number of powers such as but not limited to, (i) enter freely and without previous notice in any work place at any time of day or night, (ii) inspect any documents concerning OHS, (iii) examine or see the examination of work places and of any object therein, and (iv) order that nothing be disturbed at a work place for any period which may be reasonably required for the purpose of any examination, investigation or inspection. OHSA Officers may also give an order, verbally or in writing so as to safeguard OHS. OHSA Officers are deemed to be Public Officers under the Criminal Code, Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta and, thus, are protected by law whilst on duty.

Among its various functions, the OHSA: (1) applies the provisions of the Act and any regulations or orders made there under; (2) establishes strategies by which the general national policy relating to occupational health and safety may be implemented; (3) advises the Minister regarding the making of regulations; (4) monitors compliance with the relevant health and safety legislation; (5) prepares regulations and codes of practice; (6) promotes the dissemination of information, education and training;(7) collates and analyses data and statistics; (8) keeps registers of plants, installations, equipment, machinery, articles, substances or chemicals in use at work; (9) carries out investigations on any matter concerning occupational health and safety; (10) promotes and carries out scientific research; and (11) keeps registers of persons competent to give advice on matters related to OHS [18]. Inspection services.

OHSA is also the National Focal Point for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). Thus, OHSA is also actively involved in the organisation and management of a wide-range of EU-OSHA campaigns and activities which are carried out on a regular basis.

OHS services

Internal OHS services
The General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, S.L.424.18[19] impose an obligation on employers to designate one or more persons to assist them in undertaking the measures which are required to be taken in relation to the protection of OHS and the prevention and control of occupational risks. Such persons must have the necessary aptitude, capabilities, competence and training to be able to fulfil such important role[20]. In cases where the protective and preventive measures cannot be organised for lack of competent personnel in the undertaking or establishment, employers must enlist external services or persons. These services or persons must have the necessary aptitude and the necessary personal and professional means[21].

Occupational (external) OHS services
As aforementioned, if an employer is unable to retain an in-house internal occupational health and safety service, it is the responsibility of the employer to recruit external prevention services. The OHSA provides a ‘component persons register’ on their website [22]. This system provides a list of qualified practitioners in occupational health and safety qualified experts that can be commissioned by organisations to provide support or services in developing or maintaining their health and safety management systems.

Compensation and insurance bodies

Malta has a social security system as part of its social welfare national scheme. An individual who suffers a personal injury caused by accident arising out of or in the course of his/her employment or self-occupation; or has developed an illness or disease as a result of their work environment may be entitled to compensation through the Maltese Social Security Division: entitled Injury Benefit/Industrial Disease [23] [24]. In order to claim for this benefit the worker must complete a standard issued application form with a report of the incidence or illness. The claim form must be signed by a the treating doctor (indicating the nature and duration of the injury/ disease and anticipated recovery period), and counter signed by the employer. Once a claim is received, the case is referred to a Medical panel. The role of this panel is to examine the claim from a medical perspective, and establish whether the injury/ disease is a consequence of the work environment.

The injury benefit may be awarded to a person who suffers from personal injury caused by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment or self-occupation. Such person has to be registered under the Social Security Act, Chapter 318 of the Laws of Malta[25]. In the case of occupational diseases, a person who has developed an occupational disease may be entitled to an Injury / Industrial Benefit. Furthermore, a person who has suffered a permanent disability due to an occupational injury, may apply for a Disablement Grant / Pension. Such person has to make a written request which must be accompanied by a detailed medical report issued by a specialist. the report has to list the severity of the disability. Following such, the case will be then reviewed by a Medical Board which is appointed in accordance to the Social Security Act, Chapter 318 of the Laws of Malta. The said Board will decide upon the case and the total permanent percentage disability[26].

With regard to insurance, several organisations in Malta take industrial accident insurance, which is in the hands of private insurers.

Education, training and awareness raising

Legally required training for OHS specialists

The duty to designate one or more persons competent in OHS matters is the central responsibility of the employer. At an EU level, what determines competence in the designation of external competent persons is left to Member States. This Article of the Framework Directive EEC 89/391 was transposed into Maltese legislation through the publication of Legal Notice 36/2003 (The General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, 2003) [14], specifically through regulation 9. The employer is obliged to: “designate one or more persons having the necessary aptitude, capabilities, competence and training to assist him in undertaking the measures which are required to be taken in relation to the protection of OHS and the prevention and control of occupational risks.” However “if, for whatever reason, the protective and preventive measures required by these regulations cannot be organised for lack of competent personnel in the undertaking and, or establishment, the employer shall enlist competent external services or persons having the necessary aptitudes and the necessary personal and professional means”.

At the moment, the OHSA administers a voluntary registration system requiring persons to be admitted to the OHSA’s Competent Person Register. In order to achieve this registration a person must have the minimum of a Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety from the University of Malta (or the equivalent from any other body recognised by the National Commission for Higher Education), and at least two years proven experience in the field [27].

Other vocational training

The University of Malta (UoM) provides vocational and professional education and training. In addition, the OHSA offers courses to anyone who is interested to further their knowledge in health and safety. These include courses on first aid and safety at work, general health and safety information as well as the principles of risk assessment. In addition, the OHSA also offers tailor-made courses and courses held at the premises of the companies if they should so wish.

Awareness raising networks

An informal network has been established by the OHSA whereby persons may register themselves with the OHSA’s website; and are thus regularly updated on all matters concerning the local OHS scenario, not limited to the issue of new regulations

Specialized technical, medical and scientific institutions

Research Institutes

There are no specific institutes carrying out research in relation to occupational health and safety in Malta. However, the OHSA has conducted some recent research, which examines the prevalent occupational health and safety levels in Malta. This research focused on the following areas: (i) the delivery of statistics on (a) occupational injuries, (b) physical ill-health and (c) occupational psychological ill-health; while determining the root causes of such injuries and ill-health at a macro level (ii) the generation of data regarding the level of access of workers to internal and external OHS services and (iii) the calculation of costs of the prevailing risk levels of occcupational health and safety to the nation [28]. In addition, the Centre for Labour Studies (University of Malta) also conducts research broadly in the area of occupational health and safety.

Standardised institute

The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) is the national organisation responsible for the development and publication of standards. The MCCAA is a government agency under the Office of the Prime Minister. The MSA represents Malta at the European Level, as a member of the European Standardization Committee and at the worldwide level as a member of the International Standardization Organization.

Institutions and organisations

Table 1: Main OSH Institutions and organisations in Belgium

Key Actors in the Maltese OSH Dialogue Occupational Health and Safety Authority: [6]
Industrial Relations and Employment (Government of Malta): [7]
Malta Council for Economic and Social Devlepment: [8]
Key social partners in the Maltese OSH field Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprises & Industries: [9]
Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association: [10]
Malta Chamber of SMEs: [11]
The Gozo Business Chamber: [12]
Building Industry Consultative Council [13]
Association of Insurance Brokers: [14]
Confederation of Malta Trade Unions: [15]
Malta’s General Workers Union: [16]

Malta Employers' Association:[17]

UHM Voice of the Workers: [18]

Federal OSH authorities and inspection services Occupational Health and Safety Authority: [19]
Key compensation and insurance bodies Association of Insurance Brokers: [20]
Key prevention institutes Occupational Health and Safety Authority: [21]
Institute of Health & Safety: [22]
Key research institutes Occupational Health and Safety Authority: [23]
Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta: [24]
Key standardisation body Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority: [25]

References

  1. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta. Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  2. Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work [1989] OJ L 183, 29.6.1989.
  3. Laws of Malta. Available at: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  4. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta, Article 6(1). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  5. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta, Article 6(2). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  6. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta, Article 7(1). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  7. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta, Article 7(2). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  8. Mercieca M, 'Civil Liability arising from Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases with particular reference to Asbestos Exposure' (Doctor of Laws, University of Malta, 2017), pp.17. Available at: Laws and Theology Library Dissertations, University of Malta
  9. Council Directive 92/57/EEC of 24 June 1992 on the implementation of minimum safety and health requirements at temporary or mobile constructions sites (eighth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) [1992] OJ L245/6.
  10. OSHA – Occupational Health and Safety Authority (no date). Occupational Health and Safety: Consolidating Achievements and Engaging Further Commitment (strategic plan 2007-2012). Retrieved 12 April 2012, from: [1]
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Strategic Plan for Occupational Health and Safety 2014-2020. Available at: [2]
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 EUROFOUND - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2008). Working Conditions and Social Dialogue – Malta. Retrieved 18 May 2012, from: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/comparative/tn0710019s/mt0710019q.htm.
  13. Chapter 452 of 2002 Employment and Industrial Relations Act, 2002. Retrieved on 18 May 2012, from: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/finances/docs/actionplan/transposition/malta/d21.1-ml-mt.pdf.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Legal notice 36 of 2003 (General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations). Available at: [3]
  15. Ward, E., Perceptions of health and safety in Malta, Health and Safety Executive, Norwich, 2002. Avaiable at: [4]
  16. 16.0 16.1 Chapter 424 of 2000 on Occupational Health and Safety Authority (Act XXVII). Available at: [5]
  17. Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act, Chapter 424 of the Laws of Malta, Article 4(2). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  18. OSHA – Occupational Health and Safety Authority (no date). About us. Retrived on 05 May 2012, from 12 April 2012, from: http://www.ohsa.org.mt/about_us.asp.
  19. The General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, S.L.424.18. Available at: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  20. General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, S.L.424.21, Regulation 9(1). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  21. General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations, S.L.424.21, Regulation 9(3). Retrieved on 17 March 2020, from: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  22. OSHA – Occupational Health and Safety Authority (no date). Register Books. Retrieved on 17 May 2012, from: http://www.ohsa.org.mt/showpage.asp?pageid=40.
  23. Ministry for Justice, Dialogue and the Family (no date). Injury Benefits. Retrieved on 18 May 2012, from: https://secure2.gov.mt/socialpolicy/socprot/social_benefits/short_term_ben/injury_ben/info_injury_ben.aspx.
  24. European Union – Your Europe (2011). Staff Welfare – Malta. Retrieved on 17 May 2012, from: http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/doing-business-responsibly/staff-welfare/malta/index_en.htm.
  25. Social Security Act, Chapter 318 of the Laws of Malta. Available at: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/
  26. Ministry for Education and Employment, 2020. Injury on Duty / Grant Pension. Retrieved on 17 March 2020 from: https://servizz.gov.mt/en/Pages/Inclusion_-Equality-and-Social-Welfare/Social-Solidarity/Benefits-and-Services/WEB633/default.aspx
  27. University of Malta- Diploma in Social Studies (Occupational Health and Safety). Retrieved on 9 October 2012,from: http://www.um.edu.mt/cls/overview/UDSSOHSPTE-2010-1-O
  28. OSHA – Occupational Health and Safety Authority (2011). Occupational Health and Safty in Malta: A Synopsis Report. Retrieved on 29 May 2012, from: http://www.ohsa.org.mt/docs/Summary_Report.pdf.

Links for further reading

Ward, E., Perceptions of health and safety in Malta, Health and Safety Executive, Norwich, 2002. Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/crr_htm/2002/crr02444.htm