Firms in UAE blasted for safety record

In­spec­tors say em­ploy­ers to blame for ma­jor­ity of work­place ac­ci­dents

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan @Ma­hakLFC

Com­pa­nies in the UAE must look af­ter labour­ers as they would their own chil­dren, a top safety in­spec­tor has said.

Del­e­gates at a con­fer­ence on worker health in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day were told lives are be­ing put at risk be­cause firms fail to prop­erly clothe and pro­tect their em­ploy­ees.

Ba­sic train­ing in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try is also of­ten not be­ing de­liv­ered prop­erly, it was claimed.

The BOHS Worker Health Pro­tec­tion Con­fer­ence was told of in­stances in which work­ers have suf­fo­cated due to a lack of pro­tec­tion to harm­ful ma­te­ri­als, while oth­ers have died in falls from build­ings be­cause they were not wear­ing har­nesses.

Raed Al Mar­zouqi, Head of Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety at Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, told del­e­gates that “99 per cent” of ac­ci­dents as the fault of em­ploy­ers.

He said: “When you bring some­one into the UAE, it is like treat­ing your own kid.

“You have to pro­vide the ba­sic re­quire­ments, if you by­pass the sys­tem and rules author­i­ties will take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion, if you do not pro­vide the right train­ing, right tools and right pro­tec­tion for the work­ers you will be held re­spon­si­ble. It is like hav­ing a kid.”

He con­tin­ued: “In a coun­try like the UAE, we have a di­ver­sity of work­ers and the when we take them in, we have an obli­ga­tion to­wards them, like they do to­wards us.

“Most of the work­ers are ei­ther un­e­d­u­cated, il­lit­er­ate or have lan­guage bar­ri­ers and reach­ing out to them is a chal­lenge – one that we are try­ing our best to over­come.”

Al Mar­zouqi said that 99 per cent of the ac­ci­dents he has seen in his 18-year ca­reer were the fault of an em­ployer. He said: “Ig­no­rance is the big­gest fac­tor be­hind ac­ci­dents and deaths of work­ers. “There are three things we look at be­fore de­ter­min­ing the cause be­hind an ac­ci­dent: Was the su­per­vi­sion ad­e­quate and suf­fi­cient? “Was the worker given proper train­ing, was knowl­edge com­mu­ni­cated right? And did he have the right per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment? “In most cases when we an­a­lyse the above three points, the owner ends up be­ing guilty. If there is no aware­ness, no re­minder and proper su­per­vi­sion, the worker ends up be­com­ing a vic­tim.” De­scrib­ing com­mon ac­ci­dents, he said: “In one in­ci­dent, work­ers were not wear­ing the right gloves and ended up cut­ting their fin­gers be­cause the gloves were not the ones specif­i­cally re­quired for the na­ture of the job.” He con­tin­ued: “Own­ers tend to buy stan­dard size uni­forms with­out think­ing some may need var­ied sizes. A per­son can be pulled in if stand­ing near mov­ing ma­chin­ery if he is wear­ing over­sized clothes. “In an­other ex­am­ple, I once saw a worker clean­ing a tank with diesel spray while smok­ing a cig­a­rette.” The con­fer­ence also heard from Elaine Har­bour, Head of Li­ai­son, Mid­dle East, for the UK’s Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive, which ad­vises the UAE gov­ern­ment on the in­dus­try. She said too of­ten worker safety is seen as “a bur­den”. Har­bour said: “[Firms] should do it be­cause they want to keep their work­ers safe rather than be­cause it is a rule.”

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