Cyprus Mail

Unions attack ministry after work deaths

File photo

Trade unions rounded on the labour ministry on Wednesday after an official said recent workplace accidents could have been avoided.

Following two fatal work accidents in 24 hours, trade unions on Wednesday criticised the increasing number of accidents in recent years, and what they said was the passive attitude of the ministry in ensuring employers take proper safety measures.

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

On Monday, 54-year-old Giorgos Georgiou died after being buried under a pile of earth after 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.

Trade union Peo said there has been sixteen fatal work accidents so far this year.

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.

But authorities on Tuesday said the accident involving Georgiou could have been avoided.

Senior official of the labour inspection office Evangelia Tsoulofta said the risk of the collapse could have been foreseen and the accident prevented.

An ongoing investigation is expected to show who was responsible.

“The criminal negligence and irresponsibility of employers causing the death of their workers cannot be called an accident,” trade union 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 precautions set to improve safety in the workplace said Deok.

Legislation must also be passed to make safety training obligatory for all new staff, the union added, a proposal also put forward by Peo.

“They are putting profit over life,” Peo said, referring to employers who do not take appropriate safety measures to cut down on their expenses.

But the union also blamed the labour ministry for remaining passive until there is a work accident. Both Peo and Deok also referred to the staffing issue of the labour inspection department.

“The labour inspection department is under-staffed,” said Peo.

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

Safety procedures must be followed daily during work, OEV added.

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


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