New agency will check site health and safety

The UAE Ministry of Labour (MoL) will form an independent agency for the sole purpose of inspecting health and safety standards on construction sites.

Rules: the new regulations will upgrade the current health and safety standards on site. (ITP/Valeriano Handumon)
Rules: the new regulations will upgrade the current health and safety standards on site. (ITP/Valeriano Handumon)

The UAE Ministry of Labour (MoL) will form an independent agency for the sole purpose of inspecting health and safety standards on construction sites.

The agency is part of the ministry's plans to upgrade the country's health and safety regulations and is expected to be up and running within the next few months.

The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has been working closely with the ministry to revise health and safety laws, which will also extend to labour accommodation standards.

According to Ahmed Al Menhali of IOSH Middle East, the new regulations will also mean tougher penalties for construction companies violating the rules.

"We're in the early stages at the moment, but an independent agency will focus on health and safety inspections. It will work independently from the MoL," said Al Menhali.

"There will also be more fines; contractors will be expected to prove good health and safety standards, and intentions - prescription law can be good, but it's not possible to have an inspector on every site all of the time - so it will be up to the industry to assume responsibility."

The new law is also expected to address heat-related illnesses, first aid requirements, electrical safety at work and protective equipment to prevent falls from height.

"There's a very strong commitment from the MoL to improve health and safety standards," added Al Menhali.

"But the law on its own won't be enough. We need to build a capacity for enforcement and the industry needs to improve things. Some sectors here, like oil and gas, have standards that are comparable with the rest of the world. So something has to be done by the construction industry to get its act together."

The International Labour Office has reported a steady rise in the number of construction-related accidents across the world in the last few years.

According to the latest figures, there are 60,000 fatal accidents on construction sites each year.

Contractors in the UAE stand to lose an estimated US $5,000 (AED 18,300) per hour if work on site is stopped because of an accident.

And fines for flouting standards are currently around $13,000.

"Good health and safety is not only good for the country and people, it is also good business," added Al Menhali.

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