The Building and Construction Authority is on course to double the number of inspections it will be making this year compared to 2021, when the regulator was set up.
The building watchdog has issued 424 fines and 259 stop-works orders in the first seven months of 2023, according to figures seen by Times of Malta. These also show that, between January and July this year, it inspected 7,159 construction sites, an average of 34 a day.
In comparison, the BCA inspected 6,286 sites in 2021, or 17 sites a day. It made 10,298 inspections the following year, an average of 28 per day.
CEO Jesmond Muscat said increased enforcement resulted from more public awareness of the construction industry. “The result was an increase in calls to the BCA,” he said.
Muscat said the number of enforcement officers working at the BCA also increased and is almost double the original number.
“BCA building inspectors have increased by 10. In 2021, 11 were employed. Today, the number of building inspectors, including the chief officer and senior managers, amounts to 21,” he said.
Fines issued by the authority are also up this year. The BCA issued 424 fines between January and July – an average of 60 a month. In 2021, only 68 penalties were given and 129 in the following year.
This means the BCA is issuing 10 times as many fines this year when compared to 2021. This drastic increase can be attributed to new legislation introduced in December last year, Muscat said.
The Construction Site Management Regulations aim to “limit environmental degradation”, create “the least nuisance to neighbours” and “minimise the risk of injury to the public”.
The BCA also stopped 259 sites from continuing works between this January and July. In 2021, 59 sites were stopped and 350 in 2022.
Construction is Malta’s deadliest industry.
Thirty workers died on construction sites since 2018.
This year, one worker - Mohammed Kasem Hashem Alkhateeb, a 26-year-old - has died so far. Alkhateeb died mid-July after falling a height of one storey and suffering head injuries.
Jean Paul Sofia, 20, was 2022’s last victim. He died after a Corradino building collapsed while under construction.
A public inquiry into the young man’s death began on Thursday, with Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi taking the stand as a witness soon after Sofia’s mother, Isabelle Bonnici, had testified.
Zrinzo Azzopardi was questioned on the manpower allocated to the BCA, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the Planning Authority - three entities under his remit. He was also asked about what people can do should the public need to contact the BCA urgently.
In an exchange between inquiry board member Mario Cassar and Zrinzo Azzopardi, Cassar said people “are terrified when excavation is to start next door and they have no idea where to contact”.
Zrinzo Azzopardi responded that there are people on call to answer public concerns.
“It’s not so. Please check. When the public is worried, they need to have easy access,” Cassar rebutted. The building watchdog’s CEO said officers are on call after business hours till 9pm on weekdays, 7pm on Saturdays, and 4 pm on Sundays and feast days.