Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February, 2023 at 1:49 pm by Andre Camilleri
Construction industry stakeholders in favour of licensing of building contractors
A bill to licence building contractors is expected to be presented in March, Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said.
The minister, who was speaking on TVM’s Xtra this week, said that the licensing of contractors – a promise that was first made in 2019 – is aimed to improve standards in the construction industry.
Major stakeholders in the business have been clamouring for a better regulation of the industry, believing that only by imposing stricter rules will matters improve.
Prime Minister Robert Abela recently said that it should not be that people buy some equipment and become contractors overnight.
Two weeks ago, The Malta Independent on Sunday carried a report in which construction industry stakeholders expressed their support on a legislation to license building contractors.
In his comments to the newspaper, Zrinzo Azzopardi said that “the government is committed to introduce a system by which contractors are issued with a licence. There are various options on a way forward and in recent months discussions have been ongoing with a number of associations that represent various interests in the construction sector.
“The necessity of introducing such a licence is another step to improve standards in the construction sector,” he said.
“The establishment of the Building and Construction Authority was a step in the right direction. This authority is exclusively focused on the processes that come after the planning process. Various regulations have been introduced and the setup of the Authority is being bolstered in order to have better enforcement of regulations. The process wherein method statements are cleared by the authority is crucial and contractors are legally bound to follow the methods stated therein.”
The licensing of contractors is intended to specify the certification of players within this field, the minister added. In order to improve standards, the workforce at various levels requires more training and awareness of standards and rules to be followed, Zrinzo Azzopardi said.
This change, coupled with other initiatives that have been implemented so far such as the need for insurance policies covering the interests of third parties, bank guarantees as well as other requirements that need to be adhered to prior to and during the commencement of works in a project, will improve this sector, the minister said.
The Kamra tal-Periti (Chamber of Architects), the Malta Developers Association, the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Occupational Health and Safety Association have all expressed themselves in favour of the idea.
The Nationalist Party, for its part, has criticised the government for dragging its feet on the issue for years.
The president of the Malta Developers Association (MDA) Michael Stivala had told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the MDA is very keen on seeing these licences implemented.
“The faster this happens, the better. We are in discussions with the government as we want this as soon as possible. Just like we pushed for estate agents to be licensed, which is a system that works, now we want the same for the contractors.”
The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry also showed its support and said that it “has always insisted on the introduction of a licensing regime for all contractors involved in the building and construction industry. It is a first step in ensuring that the current rudimentary site practices start being addressed seriously”.
“Licensing needs to take into consideration administrative compliance including having the required insurance policies in place, technical competence as well as financial soundness. Equally important is the corresponding monitoring, timely enforcement in the case of abuse which includes suspension and revocation of licences, and effective penalties, Chamber CEO Marthese Portelli said.
The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) had said that “the registration and licensing of building contractors is not a matter that will be regulated through the OHS Authority Act.
“This notwithstanding, OHSA is in favour of all those measures that further clarify the responsibilities of key stakeholders. The licensing process has to be coupled with more training of workers on site not only in relation to their skills but also for more health and safety awareness.”
In another development on Tuesday, the Ministry for Public Works and Planning and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority launched a consultation process on proposed amendments to the Legal Notice 88 of 2018 with regard to the Minimum Health and Safety Requirements for Work at Construction Sites, a government statement said.
Through the proposed amendments, project supervisors will be given all the necessary powers at construction sites under their control as would allow them to fulfil their responsibilities, which are also being clarified in the Legal Notice.
A new non-liability clause is being added so no civil action or other proceedings for damages may be instituted by duty holders against the project supervisor for an act done in pursuance of the regulations unless the project supervisor acted in a negligent manner.
Additionally, the roles and responsibilities of contractors, self-employed persons and workers are being better explained for added clarity.
A copy of the draft regulations can be downloaded from the OHSA’s website: https://www.ohsa.mt/consultation.
Any person or entity who wishes to make any comments on the proposed prescribed rules is invited to do so by contacting the OHSA at 17 Edgar Ferro Street, Pieta’ PTA 1533 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is 30 March.