Firms in UAE blasted for safety record
Inspectors say employers to blame for majority of workplace accidents
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.”