Figures from the war bulletin, those reported by BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network), according to the data he was able to obtain from the State Inspectorate for Labor and Social Services, through the Albanian law on the right to information.
A report also published by Balkan Insight which leaves no free interpretation: in the first nine months of 2019, 88 occupational accidents were recorded, in which 90 employees suffered injuries such as lacerations, fractures and damage to the spine or eyesight.
And yet, 26 deceased workers, of whom 10 were masons. An escalation in the negative, considering that in the 2016 the dead were three, five in the 2017 and six in the 2018, in a sector that employs about 82.000 people.
However, from the 88 incidents of the 2019, only 30 companies involved have suffered fines. Average amount: 230.000 lek, or 1.888 euro.
An unworthy response from the Head of the Inspectorate, Arben Seferi, who rejected accusations of not being able to protect construction workers with these words: "The Labor Inspectorate is not an investigative body".
On the contrary, it has pathetically returned responsibility to workers, accused of poor negligence at work.
On Tirana alone, there are manufacturers that violate safety standards for at least 20 years. The most common violation is that on the poor material of the scaffolding, which makes it unsuitable for supporting the weight of the workers themselves when they are being assembled. Some came down 'like an onion', leafing through, to report the words of those workers who miraculously survived.
Repeated violations and, nevertheless, high fines only on the occasion of the first check. Or that, for their amount, they are really unworthy. In the 2019, the highest fine was one million leks, around 8.200 euros.
Ridiculous the passing of hot potato of the manufacturing companies. In essence, they exonerate themselves from any liability on the grounds that the material is delivered to workers in excellent condition and complete with all the parts. On how, then, the scaffolding is built, if anything the construction site engineers who can't control them all are to be blamed.
The situation in the public sector
As is easy to understand, the most glaring violations catch the eye when the work is carried out in the public building sector.
At the national level and for the simple rule of numbers, Tirana is the municipality with the greatest demand for contracts. In recent years, a good part has been devoted to the maintenance of existing buildings, whose facades and thermal insulation are taken care of.
At the procedural level, the request for works is presented to the Municipality by the residents of the buildings themselves and, for the selection of contractors, there would also be a special commission, a supervisory committee which, at the end of the contract, has the material task of making inspections periodicals on the job site.
The fact is that, curiously, when it comes to investigated construction companies, the Municipality of Tirana pulls itself out of the responsibility of the selection. Then the cards say more, it seems an irrelevant detail. Tirana says more or less like this: 'We only choose the project and support the residents, everything else is done by the condominium administrator and the residents'.
In essence, the Municipality reveals itself only when it has to repay the invoices presented by the construction manager. If, however, you try to ask the residents to comment on the choices of the Municipality, here you are in front of a wall of silence that the BIRN has learned to know well in cases of accidents at work.
The reason is easy to understand. Who would denounce, even if he had title and reason, that employer who provides him with bread at the table? That then the family man, if he should die at work, leave wives and children without bread, passes almost in the background.
BIRN has tried to hear the voice of those builders, because in Albania there are fortunately, that they are systematically excluded from the contracts, those that present a bit higher offers, given that in the cost they must include the optimal management of jobs done according to rule.
Their comment is lapidary: "There are no scaffolding in Albania, there are only deadly traps". The explanation of accidents at work is easy: the result of "unfair competition and cheap labor that does not guarantee the safety of workers".
The attitude of the Labor Inspectorate
Seferi, Head of the Inspectorate, complained that the office he directs has only 81 inspectors for the entire country. He said the state failed to keep the public sufficiently informed about workplace safety regulations, despite the introduction of an online platform to receive reports of violations and at the same time show a company file in case it had complaints and fines.
Rejects the accusation of 'turning a blind eye' to repeat offenders. Indeed, it reiterates that in 2019 alone, 16 construction sites were closed due to irregularities.
Blame the victims
Bad defense, the one adopted by the Inspectorate, in front of the documents listing the incidents, highlighting the fatal ones, with the name of the company, the workers involved and the type. Almost always, fall from above.
In most cases, the Inspectorate blames the victims.
If you fall into a hole, it's because you didn't delimit it well. It matters little that you have delimited it, yes, but putting around those beams that you then have to mount for the scaffolding and it is logical to remove them ...
"The victim made a reckless move to cross over to the other side (of the hole) that led to her fall", reads the accident report.
Very serious the accusation that the accident scenes are tampered with hindering the investigation. Tampering not created on purpose, be it clear, but a simple consequence of the fact that the works on the construction sites are not suspended and, therefore, reconstructing the exact dynamics of the events becomes almost impossible when goods and equipment are constantly moved.
Also for this accusation, the Inspectorate minimizes the risk that companies declare the falsehood on the circumstances of an accident.
So says Saferi to the BIRN: "When an accident occurs, even if you are not the head of the institution you are a man, you cannot play with the fate of a person who has lost his life. I don't know if there could be people - perhaps the 10 percent - who would benefit from someone's death. It would be the end of the world. "
Read also: The dark side of security in public works in Albania , of Oltis Dallto