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Fifteen million safe working hours on one site is a huge achievement, Aldar's health and safety leader explains just how it was possible.

SAFE PAIR OF HANDS: safety expert Andrew Broderick explains why there is no reason for accidents on the regions worksites.
SAFE PAIR OF HANDS: safety expert Andrew Broderick explains why there is no reason for accidents on the regions worksites.

Fifteen million safe working hours on one site is a huge achievement, Aldar's health and safety leader explains just how it was possible.

The development in Abu Dhabi's Al Raha beach has completed 15 million safe working hours, in a culture where danger has been the norm. However, there is nothing particularly unusual about the workers - they are the usual multi-cultural mix seen across the region's worksites.

 

We have certificates that say things like 'safe load indicator, not working' but they have been issued, which is ridiculous.

This achievement didn't happen by itself, though. Aldar properties' Health and Safety team leader Andrew Broderick explained: "It's a huge education process here. Heath and safety is very much at the start. It's like the UK was ten years ago."

"Then, there was legislation, but no-one to act on it. Here (in Abu Dhabi) it is very much the same. There is legislation, but it isn't yet widely enforced."

"As there was no enforcement agency, I quickly realisedthe way to do it here is to train, and train some more. You have to just keep on educating."

"When I first started I was working for a contractor in Dubai, so I had direct control over it. It was a diverse workforce, with many different languages, but none of them really had any idea what health and safety was."

"In the end I decided that the only way was to educate, so I threw 'toolbox talks' at them day after day."

"I had about eight thousand men working at the time and the worst accident that I had been a broken wrist."

"Now I'm in a developer role, I can set the standards and the policy, so part of that is to keep training and educating."

Broderick quickly found that a diverse workforce, with thousands of men speaking a dozen or more languages presents its own challenges when trying to get your message over.

"You need a multi-cultural training team. Once again I realised I needed an Indian guy, and Arabic guy and so on. I can't speak all those languages, so these people were really important in getting the message across. I put the training package together and they speak to them. There was one guy, who was fantastic, he spoke eight other languages. He was very busy!"

Using methods he had picked up in the UK, Broderick put together a training package for all of the workers. He found that they were motivated by methods that developed markets have become jaded with, such as small gifts and a scale of stars to be worn on the uniform.

"They really respond well to gifts. If you say to a group 'I've got five dirham for the first person to tell me how to put up a ladder safely, you'll see a forest of hands going up."

"They really like being given stars and awards for the more training they've done.

"You have to build relationships with projectors managers, and get them to 'buy in' to health and safety. You can't just go out there shouting you will do this or you will do that, it doesn't work. Using practical examples where there have been accidents in the past can also help."
 

Of course training is very important, but what specific issues does Broderick see over the region generally? "The two biggest issues on site are cranes and working at height. It is a training issue, but there are other factors as well, like the falsifying of certificates.

"The certificates of competency are sometimes wrong and the crane safety certificates which are often forged.

"There is also confusion among contractors about what is actually required. For example, does he need just a competency certificate or does he need his driving license with a provision on the back? Indeed, does he need anything? A lot of the contractors are unaware that any documents are really ever required."

"In fact Abu Dhabi has it's own health and safety codes of practice and it's mentioned in there, so we always quote the Abu Dhabi 'Heath and Safety Codes for Construction Sites' It's a very good document, just not enforced."

"However, the government is now educating Emiratis to become enforcement officers. We had a visit only recently and it's something we encourage."

"To be honest it makes my life easier, because the contractors are seeing an enforcement body rather than just the client telling them what to do. They do make comments, but there is a very grey area about taking people to court, because that is the bit that is not in place yet."

"There has been a ministerial order in place for many years, but actually taking someone to court and using it against them is very difficult."

Modern innovations in machinery have a part to play according to Broderick.

"Of course, technology plays a great role. You can have all of the training in place, but I welcome any technology that can make a crane safer. You do get some very old cranes on site, but as long as they have been maintained they are fine."

"Some of the contractors treat their cranes like their baby. If they are maintained and kept in good order they are fine. We don't turn a crane away because it is old. As long as the right inspections are carried out, it is fine."

As the construction idustry in Abu Dhabi is booming, and there are tens of thousands of extra workers every year, Broderick is confident about the industry modernising.

"It has got to change. They can't just rely on the client to enforce it. They have to have some legislation behind it."

He added; "I would like a list of approved inspectors for safety certificates."

"If we stop a crane working and say 'Where is your document?' he'll make an excuse and paperwork quickly gets faxed to the site bearing the time and the date that the fax has come through."

"We also have certificates that say things like ‘safe load indicator, not working' but they have still been issued, which is quite simply ridiculous."

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