The FINANCIAL — If you have ever passed by a construction site in Tbilisi or any other city of Georgia, you may well have noticed the scary wooden scaffolding without any guard rails or ladders; the structures’ green safety nets with big gashes in them that are often so close to the edge of the road that they present a high risk of falling objects to pedestrians and workers alike.
The above-mentioned hazardous/unsafe building practices have cost 40 people their lives in the last two years, that’s according to the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC).
According to the same statistics 181 people were victims of fatal occupational injuries in Georgia over the last four years, with the peak being in 2010 when eighty-one died due to different hazardous occupations, mostly in the construction sector.
As Paata Beltadze, head of the GTUC, told The FINANCIAL, “There is no actual provision of control over building sites despite such a body existing in the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, called the Technical and Construction Inspection”. As he explains, “Before 2006 there existed a separate Labour Technical Inspection Agency which was overseeing each construction site as well as other functioning enterprises, but it was abolished and was joined to the Ministry of Economy from that time onwards,” noted Beltadze.
As he says, the provision of technical safety on construction sites is the responsibility of technical safety engineers and the head of the crew of the respective construction company.
Whereas in Georgia the total number of employed labourers in the construction sector is no more than 42,410 (according to the Georgian Statistics office) and 40 people have died over the last two years, in Great Britain the rate of deaths on building sites is 2.4 per 100,000 workers – (2011 estimate). In member countries of the EU the average rate of fatal injuries per 100,000 persons (in all sectors of the economy) is 3.24 (2008 Eurostat estimate) – with Finland having the least number of fatal injuries of 1.28 per 100,000 persons. In Georgia however 81 persons died in 2010 alone out of the overall workforce of just 1,664.2 thousand people.
As Grigol Kakauridze, Head of the Technical and Construction Inspection of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, told The FINANCIAL, “Technical safety inspection is done only on building sites which present significant risk. Regulations which govern construction permission procedure were accepted on 24 March, 2009 (article #57). In addition construction site safety regulations were given on 28 March, 2007 (article#62).
Kakauridze denied any such fatal incidents taking place on the building sites which are under their supervision. And he noted “In regards to the inspection of building sites which are under our supervision, we first warn the building company, then in the case of a second instance we impose fines on them which are in accordance with where they’re located. In Tbilisi’s central areas it is 3,000 GEL, in self-governing cities – 500 GEL, in municipalities – 200 GEL, whilst in villages it is just 50 GEL,” said Kakauridze.
As he outlined, “According to current legislation, permission is given to bidders not to construction companies. Safety measures are not discussed in permission terms. It’s the construction company’s responsibility to ensure that safety measures are undertaken on the building site after a bid is made,” Kakauridze told The FINANCIAL.
As opposed to Kakauridze’s statement, Beltadze argues that safety inspection/supervision is currently done only on high risk construction sites which are of significant importance to the state whilst the rest of sites remain unchecked.