One worker died and four were injured during the dismantling of a decrepit building in Tbilisi on 26 July.
Employees of the Health Ministry’s Labour Safety Inspection Department arrived at the scene, where they told journalists that health and safety measures were not followed on the site.
Elza Jgerenaia, who chairs the department, said that workers were manually dismantling the building without proper equipment. She added that the ministry will take ‘strict measures’ against the company for violating safety rules, but did not specify what these measures will be.
According to the district administration (gamgeoba) of Tbilisi’s Didube–Chughureti District, City Hall had warned the company about safety violations on the site, but these were not heeded.
A day earlier, on 25 July, another worker fell from a construction site and died on the spot. Police have launched a criminal investigation into both cases.
Interpressnews reported that a third worker fell to his death on 25 July, from the second floor of a construction on Zaal Kikodze Street in Tbilisi. Locals told Interpressnews that the man was electrocuted during refurbishing works. OC Media was unable to verify this claim.
Similar accidents occurred in Tbilisi on 15 and 27 March, and in Batumi on 21 March. An investigation is ongoing for violations of health and safety rules in these cases as well.
According to official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 270 workers died and 776 were injured in 2011–2016 as a result of occupational accidents.
On 25 May, Georgia’s Public Defender launched a campaign to raise awareness about labour safety in the country. He accused the government of talking about enforcing labour inspections for many years but not following through.
‘Incidents happen, we are concerned for several days, and then life continues. Recommendations are repeated every year but nothing changes’, he said.
[Read more on OC Media: Fatal workplace accidents show ‘need for labour inspection reform’]
A 26 July poll by the the Washington-based National Democratic Institute showed that 73% of respondents believe that labour safety measures are not properly followed in Georgia.
Georgia’s Labour Inspection Department was created in 2015, following the adoption of a labour code in 2013, to supervise safety at workplaces. However, statistics show that the number of occupational injuries and deaths has only increased since then. Given this, activists claim, that the current labour inspections have proven ineffective.
The current legislation has faced criticism for its significant limitations: the Labour Inspection Department cannot inspect workplaces without the prior consent of an employer and recommendations issued following an inspection are not legally binding.