Activists held a march in downtown Tbilisi demanding the government pay closer attention to work safety issues in the country
Two workers died when a sinkhole opened at a construction site on Chavchavadze Avenue in Tbilisi on 31 March.
Rescuers discovered the body of 26-year-old David Abesadze from Chiatura at about eight in the evening, while the search for 40-year-old Edvard Varishov continued for about eight hours.
Beka Peradze, the head of the Department for the Inspection of Labor Conditions of the Ministry of Health of Georgia, stated that the initial inspection of the construction site did not reveal any immediate safety rule violations.
Peradze says that a “handmade support mechanism was found on the construction site, and deep pits were not fenced off, which immediately caught their attention”.
However, to say that these factors caused the sinkhole is, at least, premature.
Work at the site has been suspended.
The company responsible for construction at the site, Transmsheni, expressed its condolences to the relatives of the victims.
It also reported that a contractor company was carrying out work to strengthen the foundation. Accordingly, the sub-contractor is responsible for the safety of workers.
Giorgi Kobulia, the Minister of Economy, says the reason behind the collapse must be clarified.
“The situation will be clarified in detail. We will certainly take all necessary measures to avoid such tragedies,” Kobalia said.
Prior to the 31 March incident, three workers fell off a construction project in Tbilisi – two of them died. This tragedy occurred on 16 March. Even earlier, in February, one worker also died in Tbilisi for the same reason.
So far, there is no complete data on workers who have lost their lives at the workplace in 2019.
In 2018, the figures were as follows: 199 people were injured at work and 59 people died. From 2011 to 2018, i.e. over eight years, 1,081 people received work injuries and 376 died.
In 2017, district courts convicted 34 people for the “violation of safety standards resulting in damage to health or death”. In the first 11 months of 2018, 32 people were convicted under the same article.
What are the officials doing?
The Georgian parliament adopted a law on safe working conditions on 7 March 2018. The new law obliges all sectors to undergo labour inspections, and not only to areas of increased risk, as the law stated before.
The inspection department is also authorized to inspect facilities at any time, without prior notification.
This law comes into force on 1 September 2019.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Affairs Akaki Zoidze says that it is too early to talk about the effectiveness of the law – it takes time for the system to work successfully.
“It is necessary to increase the number of inspectors. Today, there are only 40 of them. And you need at least about 90,” says Akaki Zoidze.
“We have to fight in order not to grieve”
A demonstration was held last night near the Georgian government building in protest of the event. The demonstration’s motto was “We have to fight in order not to grieve”. Participants demanded that the government take all urgent measures to ensure safety standards in the workplace.
“The state does not protect us, so we have no choice but to unite and start a direct fight! The state should take care of people not only on the instructions of the European Union. The priority of the state should be people! We demand that labour inspectors be given the mandate necessary for inspections,” said the participants of the demonstration.