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Consumer watchdog monitors asbestos in ceiling

Consumer authority employees are still being exposed to an asbestos ceiling in the building next door, but a minister yesterday assured them they were in no danger.

Consumers Affairs Minister Jason Azzopardi said the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority was closely monitoring the ceiling because safety is the authority’s top priority.

When the authority moved to Mizzi House in Blata l-Bajda a few months ago, the General Workers’ Union had raised concerns about the health and safety risks being faced by employees because of the asbestos panels on the roof next door to the new office block.

Asked whether the issue had been resolved, Dr Azzopardi said the Occupational Health and Safety Authority was regularly inspecting the panels. The OHSA does not have the power to order the owner to remove the panels.

“It is not true that there is anything dangerous. There is a perception that there is a danger. The authority is addressing this perception by appointing independent experts to carry out tests every three months and these tests have shown that the presence of asbestos was negligible,” Dr Azzopardi said.

When contacted, GWU section secretary Cory Greenland, who had flagged the problem when it first cropped up, said the fact that monitoring was being carried out showed that the problem was not only a perception.

He said the presence of the asbestos roof panels was a hazard in itself for employees.

“If it’s a perception, we would not be doing tests every three months.

“We do the tests because it is a possibility that the asbestos ceiling can expose employees to harm and therefore monitoring is taking place. Since seasonal aspects may increase the output of asbestos particles, employees remain constantly concerned,” he said.

Dr Greenland said the OHSA was not doing enough to address the situation being faced by authority employees.

“I feel that OHSA does not do enough in such situations and employees remain worried. A pro-active OHSA would meet unions, safety representatives and employees and give them objective information.

“Instead, the OHSA hides behind the fact that the law requires employers to do risk assessments and to hand in a safety report,” he said.

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