Concerns over fire law enforcement
Industry sees Dubai's new fire regulations as a step in the right direction, but worries about compliance.
The announcement of Dubai's new fire regulations for buildings under construction has been welcomed by the industry, but enforcement worries are still looming.
Prior to 2007, Dubai didn't have any legislation in force to protect workers and buildings during construction. In the space of just over 12 months, the emirate has seen the speedy introduction of fire safety legislation, with the latest being based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
"Whilst there were a number of fires in buildings under construction in 2007, I'm thankful the death toll was not a lot more," said Dean McGrail, director of fire engineering, WSP. "Now here we are at the beginning of 2008, poised for the implementation of new legislation. But as with any new legislation, enforcement is key and if it is not enforced then it just becomes another piece of paper on someone's desk."
But Brigadier Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi said that tough penalties would be imposed if companies do not comply. "Notices will be sent out first and if companies still do not comply, they will be fined."
The Civil Defence intends on regulating the new directive by the means of a safety officer. This safety officer will be employed by the development and certified by the Civil Defence. They will report directly to the authority with fire safety updates.
"This is a great step forward for Dubai and demonstrates the commitment from the Civil Defence to improving health and safety and fire safety awareness. This will benefit everyone from the developers and labourers, to the man on the street," said Stuart Kerr, general manager, Bodycote warringtonfire Consulting.
He went on to add that on an international level, different countries deal with this issue in different ways. Some prefer to enforce regulations, while others favour self-regulation by the contractors, followed by heavy prosecution if negligence is proven.
Dubai has chosen to enforce law and Marc Leguin, managing director, Fire Fighting Consultants, says some companies are in for a shock.
"Some will be surprised, but the regulations are normal practice. There's a low level of education among people, from management to labourer and they need to be trained," he said.
Another hurdle will be the attitude developers take towards project completion. Brigadier Matrooshi added: "The big challenge is the rejection of the regulation because everybody want to finish things quickly, without delay.
The new guidelines are said to be implemented in the first quarter of 2008, with an emphasis on ensuring all consultants, property developers and construction companies are trained and up to speed.
Dubai is the second country in the GCC after Kuwait, to implement such regulations. "Let's hope other emirates and GCC countries follow suit," Kerr concluded.