There have been 15 fatal labour accidents in South Cyprus so far this year, two of them this past week alone, and trade unions are calling for urgent action, including preventive measures and the necessary legislation to safeguard health and safety at work, Despina Psillou writes in Phileleftheros.
Sek trade union confederation sounded the alarm, calling on the state to speed up action so that everything is done, whether by enacting new laws or other measures to boost preventive health and safety actions in the workplace.
In an announcement, Sek spoke of an increasing number of fatal labour accidents in workplaces that are disorganized and where there is a lot of undeclared labour. Many labour accidents occur where there is no trade union representation and where there is sub-contracting without the implementation of safety standards, it said
The judiciary also has a role as it is called on to impose stiff penalties for violation of the law.
“The government and the House must where necessary boost legislation and increase penalties where necessary so as to curb deregulation in the labour market by combating undeclared work on the one hand and reducing the number of labour accidents on the other,” it said.
Peo, the Pancyprian Labour Organisation demanded action not words, and urged citizens not to agree to work if safety conditions are not in place.
“There has been a dramatic increase in labour accidents these past years. The year is not over, and we already have 15 fatal labour accidents. It is becoming increasingly clear that some employers aiming at excessive profit opt to intensify work and not to take the necessary safety and health measures. They put profits above life,” it said.
But it said that the Labour Ministry also bore responsibility as it has stood by as a spectator while safety standards have been sidelined. It said there should be compulsory training of new workers by their employers as well as regular and compulsory training for workers in sectors vulnerable to accidents.
Problems in the construction sector
The Federation of Building Contractors said that the increase in the number of labour accidents made it essential for an information campaign among contractors. The federation also highlighted the need for the correct use of the equipment and personal safety means by employees.
There was a difficulty in all districts to find both skilled and unskilled workers, the federation added and asked that third-country nationals and asylum seekers, as well as students, be allowed to work on building sites.
Senior labour inspector Evangelia Tsoulofta said that from her 20-year experience all accidents can be avoided.
“There has not been a single accident which we have investigated which led us to a different conclusion,” she told Alpha TV.
The Pancyprian Health and Safety Council convened three times in 2019 and examined the stricter implementation of the law and improvements to avert accidents. A plan of action has been drawn up, she added.
But every employer and every employee must make the issue of safety a priority.
Investing in health and safety delivered as for each €1 invested in health and safety measures the return was €2.2. The cost of accidents is borne by all, as a survey by the department in cooperation with the University of Cyprus found that 30% of the cost falls on the employers, 40% on the employee and 26% on the state, she concluded.