The Police Code, specifically Chapter 10, provides a delineation of the mason’s role under several provisions.
These provisions extend the mason’s definition to include individuals engaged in constructing stone or brick buildings, including walls and other structures using mortar. Indeed, according to the Police Code, the scope of a mason’s work also encompasses the construction of cisterns, privies, sinks, cesspools or conduits for unwholesome water or sewage matter.
Masons’ licences are granted by the director of Public Works upon successful completion of a comprehensive theoretical and practical examination.
One significant provision within the Police Code empowers the Court of Magistrates to take action against masons found to have caused harm to individuals or property due to unskillfulness, imprudence or carelessness in the execution of their trade. The court could prohibit the erring mason from practising their craft for a specified period and revoke their licence.
Prior to 2018, the construction industry operated under the jurisdiction of Legal Notice 96 of 1968, which stipulated that all building projects, alterations or demolitions must be carried out under the vigilant supervision of a licensed mason.
Under the erstwhile legal framework, masons held significant authority and responsibility in the construction process. Their purview included overseeing crucial tasks such as skilful arch construction, artful roofing in stone or reinforced concrete, precise assembly or alteration of scaffolding, expert craftsmanship in staircases, adept positioning of joists, undertaking excavation work necessitating shoring and proficient erection or installation of lifting appliances.
Still, Legal Notice 96 of 1968 mandated all construction sites to be under “general supervision” of a licensed mason. Now, the notion of general supervision remains ambiguously defined, consistently igniting scholarly discussions and inquiries regarding its precise implications.
Meanwhile, insofar as masons are concerned, the latest Construction Industry Licensing Regulations, 2023 (LN 166 of 2023) have brought about a significant change in the assignment of excavation projects.
Previously under the purview of licensed masons, excavation projects are now entrusted to individuals who hold a Level 4 certification as an excavation plants supervisor.
This certification is granted in accordance with the National Occupational Standards, ensuring a more specialised and qualified workforce in the field of excavation.
Alternatively, individuals can demonstrate a minimum of three years of proficiency in excavation and piling tasks, supported by references from at least two relevant projects.
This revamped approach is evidently aimed to ensure that only qualified and experienced individuals are entrusted with such critical tasks, excluding masons who may lack specialisation in these specific areas.
It is widely recognised that licensed masons do not possess the required training to oversee steel frame structures- Robert Musumeci
Regarding the recent advancements brought forth by LN 166 of 2023, I firmly believe that a tailored approach is essential to uphold the safety and precision of steel frame construction projects. Just as we have seen with excavation, piling works and demolition, a specialised strategy is necessary.
It is widely recognised that licensed masons do not possess the required training to oversee steel frame structures, given their reliance on intricate and complex connections. Therefore, I advise that these regulations explicitly identify a competent person responsible for providing supervision in this area, distinct from licensed masons, to ensure that the right expertise is applied to such critical projects.
Yet, regarding licensed masons, there is a consensus that they should indeed be the ones responsible for supervising building works involving blockwork. However, I share the discomfort surrounding the notion of “masons providing general supervision”.
It is essential that the law clarifies their role, emphasising the necessity for licensed masons to be present at all times to oversee the blockwork construction and, possibly, take over some of the responsibilities of the site manager, as outlined in Legal Notice 340 of 2022, a role that clients often take without fully comprehending its technical and legal implications.
Furthermore, it is imperative for the law not only to require licensed masons to provide constant supervision but also to designate them, and no one else, as the primary recipients of structural drawings from the architect.
This would ensure that the licensed masons are equipped with the necessary information and understanding to effectively oversee the construction process and facilitate seamless communication with other workers on the site.
In turn, the mason must ensure that, in cases of uncertainty, he must stop the works and communicate promptly with the perit supplying the drawings.
The essential point here is that masons should not merely lend their name to initiate works on site, leaving periti to communicate with whoever happens to be present, and hope for the best.
Robert Musumeci is an architect and lawyer holding a PhD in planning law.