Navigating the health and safety legislation

Laura Atherton, solicitor advocate, Kennedys, and Aziz Zerban, regional SHE team leader, EC Harris International, continue their look at health and safety law, and specifically organisations that help navigate these rules.

Laura Atherton
Laura Atherton

There are two major issues when dealing with health and safety in Dubai; the first is to obtain and understand the comprehensive set of obligations which Dubai law requires those working in the construction industry to comply with.

The second is the actual implementation on site of practices and procedures to ensure that these laws are adhered to. The latter has been the subject of much discussion in construction circles in Dubai and the talk is generally of the need to change the culture and attitude to health and safety on a number of construction sites.

However, this issue can only be tackled once the actual requirements that need to be complied with are fully understood - and having complete understanding of the relevant law is not as simple as it sounds.

A large part of the problem is getting on top of all the legislation available.

There is no one body or authority responsible for producing all of the relevant health and safety legislation for Dubai. In fact, there is health and safety legislation, guidance and other documentation produced at Emirate, Federal and GCC (international) level.

Even when just considering what is available at Emirate level, the law comes in many forms, Ministerial Orders and Regulations, Dubai Municipality Regulations, Technical Guidelines and Circulars. There are also safety manuals and documents of various status produced by entities like the Free Zone authorities and governmental organizations.

There are certain key pieces of legislation and guidance likely to be familiar to those working within the sphere of health and safety such as Federal Law No 8 of 1980 Part V (the Labour Law), Ministerial Order 32 of 1982 and the Dubai Municipality Code of Construction Safety Practice.

However, some of the applicable laws are far less well known. For example, did you know that Article 3 of Ministerial Order 44/1 of 1980 on the Inspection of Establishments requires that establishments need to be inspected periodically at least twice a year?

So what help or hope is there for the construction professional who wants to ensure that they are up to speed with all of the relevant health and safety legislation?

Well, there are currently two not-for-profit organisations who share information, best practice and provide support in order to raise the bar, and make Dubai a safer place to both work and live: IOSH and BuildSafe Dubai.

IOSH, Europe's leading body for health and safety professionals, set up an IOSH Middle East branch in 2006. One of IOSH's stated aims is to clarify the legislation concerning occupational health and safety in the Middle East and to share this information with interested parties.

BuildSafe Dubai is a meeting of minds from various organisations who have good safety standards with a view to sharing ideas on good practice and how to implement, plan and cost such practice.

Through a combination of the effort of a number of individuals, including the authors, working with these two organisations, work is currently underway on producing a database which aims to be a comprehensive bible of all the relevant health and safety legislation applicable to those working in the construction industry in Dubai.

It is expected that the database will be complete in the first quarter of 2008, when it will be accessible to all for free, through both the IOSH Middle East and Buildsafe Dubai websites.

It is thought that, once complete this database and other information provided by IOSH and BuildSafe will be a hugely beneficial resource to all those working in the construction industry in Dubai.

As Dubai continues to meet its fast-track vision and aspirations to become a tourism and commerce hub, will it observe a similar fast-track path for safety?

The authors of this article fully believe that there are good and sufficient regulations here in Dubai, however, the sheer number of constructions sites makes it hard for the authorities to enforce. Nevertheless as we have seen media attention shift and corporate social responsibility take hold in the recent past, we are confident that a radical change is underway.

If you want to get involved in the work on the database or on any of the other initiatives currently being developed by IOSH or Buildsafe then you may contact the authors for further information or go to or

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