When we play with fire
Two unconnected incidents brought home to anyone observing the Maltese scene the propensity to treat security and safety issues casually, if not also with disdain.
The first case involves the law courts, where employees have complained about being tasked to carry large sums of money daily from the court building in Valletta to another location in the city without the necessary security protocols or safeguards such an operation should necessitate. The task is usually assigned to drivers of members of the judiciary and the court marshals. The court administration says daily cash deposits are made by duly-authorised personnel accompanied by a driver and that a licensed security guard joins the authorised person when the need is felt.
The second case concerns a number of recent serious gas-related incidents, one of which led to the death of a man. The incidents caused alarm and raised serious questions about potential hazards posed by gas cylinders. Statements by LPG supplier Liquigas and the energy and consumer watchdogs helped but are unlikely to have fully quelled concern.
There appears to be a culture of risk-taking in the Maltese psyche, a lack of adherence to regulations and supervision, which leads to injury or even death. The Occupational Health and Safety Authority does its best to offer advice about good practice and ensuring conformity with established safety regulations but, ultimately, the responsibility rests with employers, their workers and consumers using appliances.
The same applies to security.
Though the annual statistics show that many non-fatal accidents and security incidents are of a relatively minor nature, the number of occupational accidents underline the Maltese workers’ vulnerability to injuries in the work-place. There is strong suspicion that most accidents are caused by employees and their staff failing to comply with health and safety regulations.
As a very broad generalisation about the casual approach the Maltese appear to adopt towards security and health and safety matters, the heart of the problem may lie in a lack of imagination about the possible consequences of individual actions, of familiarity breeding complacency, together with ignorance of the basic steps to be followed to ensure a safe and secure environment.
It is the latter that may need to be examined when analysing the cause of many incidents, including the recent gas-related ones. However, there is a personal responsibility that every individual must also bear. This is the need to take sensible precautions. While responsible public authorities, be that the administrators at the law courts, or private companies, like gas suppliers, must always ensure security rules are enforced and public safety is protected, individuals also have every responsibility to ensure they do not place themselves at risk.
We must recognise intellectually the risks we run when we do not treat safety or security with the seriousness they deserve while, at the very same time, being unwilling to acknowledge that our own lives, and that of others, too, might be at risk.
We might be afraid of the safety and security consequences, possible impending injuries or even death, but we also seem confident that, through the grace of God, who has preserved us so far, we can somehow be spared from the consequences if things go wrong. It is an attitude to safety and security that must change.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial