Thursday, May 3, 2012


One of the first acts of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, on being elected to office last December, was to establish Workers Memorial Day to be commemorated just before May Day. April 28 was the first homage to those who died in work place accidents and as the Chief Minister’s speech reveals he had a very personal reason for marking this day.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s Address on Workers Memorial Day, 28th April 2012

On 11th Nov 1938 32 year old Henry Massetti went to work as normal.

He was assigned to a building site in the area of the Alameda red sands. He was excavating near a wall that collapsed on him.

Having survived the collapse of the wall by the 14th November he was dead; dying an agonising death from respiratory failure.

Henry Massetti left a widow with three children and a fourth child unborn in his wife's belly.

The eldest daughter was my mother.

The inquest into the death of my grandfather in 1938 records a verdict of death by misadventure.

Let me now read you the intro to a piece in the Gibraltar Chronical in 2009 by Brian Reyes:


Workers at the Waterport Terrace construction site put productivity before health and safety, an inquest into a fatal accident was told yesterday. John Moreno, the Gibraltar Government’s principal health and safety inspector, said he had reached that conclusion as a result of an investigation following the accident at the site in 2007.

“If works had to be done, they would do it regardless of health and safety,” Mr Moreno said. “Production came first and the rest behind.”
Mr Moreno was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Jose Luis Gomez Garcia, a Spanish worker employed by Brues y Fernandez [Brues], the main contractor at the Waterport Terrace site  Sr Gomez fell to his death from a partly-finished second floor balcony after a makeshift guardrail gave way, the inquest heard.

 The guardrail was made from timber recycled from wood pallets used to transport building materials to the site.

 It had been placed across a gap at the side of the balcony as a safety measure, secured at one end with a masonry nail and at the other with a wedge.

Similar barriers were in place elsewhere but there was no evidence that they had been certified as safe by a competent person.

In evidence, Mr Moreno said the setup was far from adequate and that purpose-built, metal barriers should have been installed.”

Only last year, in an incident that rocked the whole of our Nation, an explosion at North Mole resulted in the death of a working man With 70 degree burns.

As a result of that incident we have celebrated the bravery of police officer Jared McIntosh.

So we must also remember the sacrifice of Pedro Zambrano Lopez who dies last year aged 40, my age today, in that explosion.

His was believe it or not the second death by fire on the Western Arm in 20 years.

Mr David Pickup died in a fire at the refuelling depot on North Mole.

We also cannot forget those who died in the Bedenham incident and in the explosion in Tangier that resulted in the loss of lives of GSP officers who we remembered in another plaque here earlier this year. Yet they are not the only ones. Too many too mention or list have died at work, trying to earn an honest living.

From 1938 to 2007 to 2011

Wherever workers are from, nationals, Spanish cross frontier workers, Moroccan workers or detached workers from form eastern european states - the health and safety of each individual worker matters.

Even in offices there are threats to health and safety.

Not just on building sites and other sites of manual labour.

Electricity, constant staring at screens, humidity - all these things are also silent dangers that we must look out for today.

Wherever danger lurks, we must be ready to ensure it is checked and countered to protect the workforce.

We may never be able to deal with every lurking danger but we care and we as a community are sending out a message with this holiday that we will not tolerate any corners being cut any shortcomings with the health of our workers.

Because that is how we remember the dead and protect and fight for the living.

I want to thank Gilbert McCarthy public ally for the work he has done to raise the profile of this day as a distinct occasion to the 1st of May and also Christian Duo who picked up the mantle from Gilbert.

I make no apology for how personally I feel the need to establish this day in our national calendar.

I now ask you to observe a minutes silence after the excellent Scout band plays in my unveiling of the plaque to commemorate those who we remember today.