More health and safety training for the public is needed to avoid disasters and prepare people for an emergency, according to St John Rescue Corps commissioner Andrew Grech.

“There is this mentality in Malta that these things [emergency situations] will never happen to us,” Mr Grech told the Times of Malta during the volunteer group’s annual open day yesterday. “We need more training to make people aware of the dangers around them and ready to help others,” he said.

There’s still a lot more to be done

A number of high-profile public health and safety incidents occurred the past year, including the Paqpaqli car crash and the Paceville stairwell collapse. The Sunday Times of Malta reported yesterday that, in the wake of these incidents, the government was considering expanding the role of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority to oversee public safety overall.

Mr Grech said that, while existing health and safety laws were adequate, what was needed was better enforcement and a more serious approach to safety issues. “We’ve improved a lot but there’s still a lot more to be done,” he added.

The St John Rescue Corps is a volunteer organisation that provides support to civil protection authorities as well as training in basic safety and water, fire and urban rescues.

Members of the public were treated to a display of the group’s work during the open day at the Fort Madliena training centre, with rescuers abseiling down the walls of the fort and cutting ‘victims’ free from cars involved in simulated road accidents.

The corps had a busy 2015, Mr Grech said. Apart from its regular work at major events like Isle of MTV, the group also operated an auxiliary fire station at the training centre during CHOGM and also assisted the Civil Protection Department in dealing with a large fire in Birżebbuġa in summer.

The group has about 80 active volunteers who receive training on a weekly basis. It has experienced increased interest from companies seeking health and safety training for employees.

Mr Grech made an appeal for more volunteers that would allow the group to expand the scope of its work. “We want to work more on water rescue training so people can be aware of what to do in case of an emergency. We are also looking into building our capacity for rescues overseas,” he said.

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