All four workplace fatalities last year involved male construction workers who fell to their death.

The worrying trend, which emerged from the 2018 Occupational Health and Safety Authority annual report, comes in the wake of calls for tighter controls and safeguards in the construction industry.

While the sector is booming, it is also attracting criticism on the increasing reliance of third country foreign workers and cheap labour. The state of affairs has prompted concern on the conditions these labourers are being made to work in.

There were 3,252 work-related injuries across all economic sectors last year that resulted in, at least, a day of sick leave. 

Though this amount was marginally higher than in 2017, the  figure translates to a lower injury rate per 1,000 workers. This seemingly contradictory trend is due to the fact that the rise in the number of workers in 2018 eclipsed the increase in accidents. 

From a wider perspective, the rate of 1,400 injuries per 100,000 workers recorded last year marks a continuous steady decline in injury rates since 2006.

However, in terms of fatalities the situation is fluctuating with a rather irregular pattern. 

While in 2016 seven employees died while on duty, there was just one case the following year. Then, in 2018 the number quadrupled.

In its report, the OHSA noted that all four cases involved construction workers who fell from a height, including three foreigners. 

Two of the victims were self-employed and two were engaged with a small contracting company.

During 2018, the health and safety watchdog handled 1,858 building site notifications, which involved work lasting longer than 30 days on which more than  20 workers were simultaneously on site.

It said this sector relied on low-skilled, migrant workers, with most contractors being involved on multiple projects at the same time. 

The OHSA blamed the legal interpretation given to the term “construction” for the recruitment of part-timers, self-employed or others whose registered occupation with JobsPlus was different.