Responsible measures

Firms should provide machinery operators with formal training to safeguard lives, as well as the business itself.

COMMENT, Business

Commuters heading towards the otherwise tranquil area of Garhoud one sunny morning last week would have been bemused at the sight of a mobile crane which had somehow managed to get stuck in a ditch.

Close investigations by the Construction Week team unearthed the series of events that led to the truck-mounted crane finding itself so ignominously in the trench being dug as part of a cabling works project.

According to an eyewitness at the scene, the accident actually happened just after sunset the evening before.

The operator had been trying to steer the 45-tonne vehicle forward, but instead reversed it into the ditch.

A colleague of the driver in question was later quite happy to spill the beans and land us with a scoop: the driver wasn't qualified to operate the vehicle.

The story could almost be comical, if the essence of how it came about wasn't so tragic.

Unlike the crane accident at a Sharjah construction site in the same week, the incident fortunately wasn't fatal.

But it highlighted a serious flaw in a system that exposes labourers to the dangers of operating heavy machinery - and through no fault of their own.

While the UAE licence system can provide a permit to drive a 'tractor or heavy mechanical equipment', it doesn't mean to say that those holding the licence have any knowledge or experience of actually operating the machinery.

The industry is making matters worse by knowingly taking on people without formal training and certification.

Once again, it is the abysmal salary paid for manual labour that is spurring thousands of workers to take advantage of the system's loophole, and take risks with their own lives - and the lives of others - in search of better pay.

It is also down to desperation that companies are hiring unqualified staff to operate what is probably the most dangerous component of a construction site.

Labour shortages and time constraints should not be an excuse for blatantly ignoring basic safety standards.

The least companies could do is provide their machinery operators with formal training - to safeguard lives, as well as the survival of the business itself.

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