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Novices exact a heavy toll

Many operators of heavy equipment on the UAE's construction sites are being hired without any formal training.

Down in a ditch: this heavy crane was accidentally reversed into a trench by an inexperienced driver in the Al Garhoud area of the city.
Down in a ditch: this heavy crane was accidentally reversed into a trench by an inexperienced driver in the Al Garhoud area of the city.

Many operators of heavy equipment on the UAE's construction sites are being hired without any formal training.

The lack of experience has led to several accidents involving heavy machinery in the last few weeks.

On 23 October, two Indian workers were killed at the Square General Contracting construction site near the Millenium Hotel in Sharjah when a crane collapsed because of overloading.

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In the same week, another crane collapsed near the Sharjah Municipality roundabout while being transported to a construction site by truck.

In a third incident, a crane fell into an excavated ditch in the Al Garhoud area as the operator tried to turn the vehicle around. A spokesperson on the project said the driver was not qualified to operate the machine.

According to Sohail Vakil, a UAE-based recruitment agent, accidents like these happen due to a lack of experience among machinery operators.

"A lot of these workers might have a licence to operate a crane, but they don't actually have the experience," he said. "Any worker can get a licence to drive heavy equipment here, and due to the shortage of operators, companies will take on most people with a licence. This is the problem."

Vakil added that many workers are switching jobs to operate heavy machinery - which they don't have experience in - driven by the increasing demand for operators and better pay.

A Dubai-based HSE manager, who wished to remain unnamed, said the problem was also down to a loophole in the UAE's driving licence system.

"We can all get a licence to drive heavy vehicles, but that doesn't mean we are allowed to operate the machinery attached to the framework of a heavy vehicle. When hiring out equipment with an operator, all companies must ask for a competency certificate. These certificates will ensure that the operator knows how to operate the machine."

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