The construction industry has a poor image in the eyes of many, partly because developers have not always observed reasonable quality standards that safeguard the interests of stakeholders. The industry is multifaceted, comprising contractors, subcontractors, architects, designers, suppliers and other professionals in the private and government sectors. The public is also impacted directly by it.

The decision to set up a new authority to enforce construction rules, overhaul existing legislation and take over responsibilities under the remit of various entities and boards is a welcome development for the construction industry. 

The building contractors’ lobby has initiated the reform process by launching the considerate construction scheme that should ensure developers adopt quality standards in the way they deal with pedestrians, neighbours and workers affected by construction projects. There can be little doubt about the good intentions of the industry to improve its image. Malta Developers’ Association president Sandro Chetcuti says that his organisation wants a “situation where you walk by a building site and you cannot even tell that construction is going on”.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry applauded the initiative and defined what needs to be done to translate good intentions into an improved reality. It expects that the quality scheme will be run by an independent body that audits the industry in an objective and coherent manner. It also argues that a code of ethics will address the issues of respect for the community, the protection of the environment, the security of everyone’s safety and the value of the workforce.

The list of risks and inconveniences the construction industry poses to the public is long and worrying. The air and noise pollution caused by the demolition of old buildings, the transportation of building material and rubble to and from a construction site and the constant noise of heavy equipment used have become daily occurrences that affect people’s health and well-being.

The International Organisation of Standards defines various measures and specifications that responsible developers need to adopt and observe to ensure that quality management of building projects is effective. These quality standards relate to the management of the environment, energy, health and safety and collaborative working. It also defines benchmarks for monitoring performance and initiating a cycle of continuous improvement.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that, each year, 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and diseases and that 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses drive up the economic and human cost of inefficient health and safety management.

Regulations governing energy use and green building need to be stricter as environmental concerns keep growing. Developers and the construction industry must work with regulators and the community more closely to deliver projects that are sustainable in the long term.

The Achilles heel of most government and regulatory initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life of people is the effective enforcement of sensible regulation. From traffic management to public cleanliness, the lack of competence or political will to ensure that everyone complies with regulations often frustrates the good intentions of public administrators to protect the public from uncivil or even abusive behaviour.

The setting up of a new autonomous authority to regulate the construction industry and the voluntary quality scheme launched by developers are steps in the right direction.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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