Civilians, put your hard hats on

Counting the number of construction cranes in Dubai could well have become something of a pastime for residents of high-rise buildings in the emirate.

COMMENT, PMV

Counting the number of construction cranes in Dubai could well have become something of a pastime for residents of high-rise buildings in the emirate.

And mulling over what that figure is might have evolved into a useful filler for a lull in conversation.

A precise number has been difficult to pin down.

Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley suggested in a recent report that Dubai alone accommodates 15-25% of the 125,000 cranes currently operating worldwide, although other sources claim this estimation goes way beyond the reality.

Either way, the crane has become so emblematic of Dubai, it would come as no surprise if a developer emerges with plans to create Crane City.

It's been said that the number of cranes dotting a skyline is an indication of how healthy a city is.

What isn't so easy to tell is just how healthy those cranes towering above us are.

In 2003, Dubai Municipality enforced a regulation stating that all companies carrying out inspections on lifting equipment in the city needed to undergo a full accreditation process.

Since then, it has toughened up the procedure used to test equipment and ensured that those employed to undertake inspections are qualified to do so.

Accreditation bodies also have to report equipment failures, and there are plans to mark all cranes deemed safe with a DM accreditation stamp.

While this has gone some way to reducing the risk of crane-related accidents, the huge task of making sure contractors go through the right channels to get equipment checked and maintained still remains.

Those grappling with equipment shortages to get jobs done on time could be tempted to skip the approval process - especially if they have the option to use non-accredited companies.

The other task is ensuring that all those who operate cranes are properly trained, particularly on the congested sites of the emirate.

It's a situation that isn't unique to Dubai: a recent report on cranes by the UK's Health & Safety Executive revealed years of ‘poor maintenance and non-existent risk assessments'.

Maybe what's needed is an official public register that would contain maintenance logs.

Failing this, we might all have to start wearing hard hats.

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