Two Egyptian workers died in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday of carbon monoxide inhalation near Como, in northern Italy, the latest in a long spate of workplace accident deaths in Italy. The tragedy sparked a fresh controversy on workplace safety .
Said and Samir were 25 and 29. They had arrived from Egypt a few months ago. They lived near Milan and were working on a building site at Moltrasio, on Lake Como, for the construction of luxury villas. They died together, in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday (September 20-21), after inhaling carbon monoxide emitted by a brazier lit to keep them warm in the container set up on a narrow area of the mountain.
The container, without proper ventilation, had been turned into an office and sleeping quarters, perhaps to avoid the commute with Milan.
After the tragedy, prosecutors in Como opened an investigation and seized the construction site for luxury homes. The main client is Russian, although at least three companies are involved in the project, including two subcontractors.
Many aspects to be clarified
The death of two young workers, Said Salah Ibrahim Abdelaziz, 25, and Samir Mohamed Said, 29, is believed to date back to late Tuesday. Preliminary reports said that when the pair's bodies were discovered in the morning, they had been dead for several hours. A 62-year-old workmate found them after they failed to show up for work. He immediately called for help and, in shock, was assisted by 118 medical personnel.
"Who authorized the workers to sleep and/or live in the container? Which company worked there, had workers been regularly hired?" -- these were the questions posed by Eloisa Dacquino of the Milan and Lombardy chapter of union UIL, the same issues at the center of the investigation being carried out by Como Carabinieri police and prosecutors, labor inspectors and officials from the Agency for the safeguard of health (Ats).
Many aspects still need to be clarified: for example, whether the young Egyptians had casually chosen to stay in the container, possibly because they had worked late, or whether it was a rule for them to stay overnight, which would pose many more questions regarding workplace safety.
The construction site is in an area with a spectacular view of the lake, one kilometer from Villa D'Este, a few hundred meters from the villa of Javier Zanetti and above the one formerly owned by Gianni Versace, where many luxury villas are being built.
Unions demand commitment on safety rules
The unions CGIL, CISL and UIL in Como have organized on Thursday (September 22) a demonstration in front of the prefecture.
"In a civilized country, it isn't possible to sleep in a shack on a construction site, a situation that doesn't respect the most basic rules on hygiene and security, as well as human dignity," union members denounced.
"It is terrible and senseless to die in that way."
Expressing their condolences to the victims' families, the unions once again asked for a law making it mandatory for employees to clock in on construction sites.
"Had it been approved, such an incident would never have happened," they said.
In a joint statement, local union leaders asked lawmakers to promote training for workers and employers as a precondition for a company's activity. They also asked to boost safety controls in companies and for workplace health and security to become part of school programs.