Recent workplace deaths could have been avoided

In the wake of two fatal workplace accidents within 24 hours and a sharp increase of work deaths have social partners agreeing that many could have been avoided if proper safety measures were in place.

Trade unions are also fuming at the Labour Ministry after an official said recent workplace accidents which led to the death of two construction workers could have been avoided. They blame the passive attitude of the ministry in ensuring employers taking the necessary measures.

On Tuesday, 56-year-old Andys Evangelou from Dherynia died in a work accident at Vassiliko cement works after the hook wire of the crane he was driving snapped and hit him on the head.

Twenty-four hours earlier, a construction worker died after being buried under a pile of earth, 54-year-old Giorgos Georgiou was crushed to death when a wall he was painting collapsed at a private property in Ayios Tychonas, Limassol.

The man’s body was found around five hours after the incident occurred. According to the post-mortem he died of asphyxiation.

Left-wing trade union federation PEO said that fatal workplace accidents have almost doubled in 2019.

So far this year there have been 15 fatal work accidents, while according to data from the Labour Ministry, 2018 saw nine deaths caused by work accidents, two in 2017, five in 2016 and four in 2015.

Both unions and the Labour Ministry have said the accidents could have been avoided.

?he labour inspection office has officially said the accident involving Georgiou was preventable. Senior officer for the labour inspection office Evangelia Tsoulofta said the risk of the collapse could have been foreseen and the accident prevented.

In comments to ANT1 TV, Tsoulofta said the 15 people who have died lost their lives due to criminal omissions by their employers.

Despite the severe penalties of up to Euros 80,000 and 4 years in prison and the court may impose, how many companies make written risk assessments based, on the data we hold its about 70%.

Commenting on the death of Georgiou, Tsoulofta said the risk of the wall collapse could have been foreseen and the accident prevented. An ongoing investigation is expected to show who was responsible.

Criminal negligence

The criminal negligence and irresponsibility of employers causing the death of their workers cannot be called an accident, trade union federation DEOK said on Wednesday.

It said the conditions under which both recent accidents had taken place show that employers were not taking appropriate safety measures.

A bill is pending for approval in parliament to set higher fines for employers who do not abide by the safety rules in the workplace.

They are putting profit over life, PEO said, referring to employers who take shortcuts to reduce costs.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, PEO Deputy General Secretary Sotiroula Charalambous, said in recent years, accidents at work have increased dramatically with employers not investing in safety.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that some employers aiming at excessive profits are choosing to intensify worker productivity without, however, taking the necessary Health and Safety measures.

Charalambous said that employer responsibility for worker safety cannot be emphasised enough every time there is a fatal accident. They need to put their words into action before we mourn more victims.

PEO also blames the Labour ministry for not doing enough.

To date, PEO has made many specific recommendations. What has the Ministry done to improve the situation? Nothing, said Charalambous noting the Labour Department is understaffed.

She said there are 30 inspectors who are expected to perform inspections at more than 130,000 workplaces.

The Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB) also said that most work accidents could be avoided if a risk assessment study was performed.

In the wake of the two fatal accidents, the Federation of Employers and Manufacturers (OEB) calls on businesses, workers and self-employed to take all necessary measures provided for by law.

Safety procedures must be followed daily, said Lena Panayiotou head of OEB’s Industrial Relations and Social Policy Department.

The primary task of every employer is to provide employees with a healthy and safe work environment where every employee can work productively and creatively and return to their family in good health.

Panayiotou said employees must also adhere strictly to their employer’s instructions, apply procedures to perform their duties safely, and make use of the Personal Protection equipment provided such as helmets, safety shoes, etc.

The overwhelming majority of accidents at work can be prevented and avoided if a written Risk Assessment Study is carried out prior to the commencement of work, while performing the procedures provided by the Health and Safety Management System, taking into account work and the risks involved.

All social partners urge people who spot irregularities in the application of safety measures at a workplace to report them to the authorities.

The public can access health and safety at work legislation on the website of the Labour inspection department in both Greek and English.

Source: The Financial Mirror