Need to coordinate health and safety laws in Dubai
There are diverse sources which govern Dubai's health and safety laws and this causes disarray, confusion and trouble. Amy Choudhary, lawyer at Kennedys, calls for a single regulatory package.
Over the past years, the growth and influence of health and safety laws in Dubai and the UAE is a reflection of the increased size (and inevitable risk which will follow) of the projects taking place within this region.
The development of Dubai has prompted government departments to issue legislation, rules and guidelines for projects that fall under their jurisdictions.
This move has resulted in numerous sources of legislation which comprise of federal laws, ministerial and local orders, Dubai municipality orders and bespoke health and safety procedures issued from each government department and the freezone authorities.
Importance of standard setting
Although standard setting has become an important aspect and plays an integral part in the industry, there is an argument that each government entity has its own standards in place, which has consequently created an assortment of health and safety rules and regulations.
Health and safety consultants not only face an administrative nightmare in creating an internal database that reflects the numerous regulations which need to be complied with, but also a substantial risk that a disparate rule and/or measure issued from a particular department might be overlooked resulting in heavy fines and/or prosecution.
There have been murmurs that there is a lack of single unified code and no guidance as to the hierarchy or interaction of legislation.
This inevitably creates practical difficulties in compliance. As it stands, a contractor who is involved in numerous projects in Dubai will need to act in accordance not only with: the federal laws governing the emirate (and other jurisdictions within the UAE) but also the ministerial orders, Dubai municipality orders, and local codes of construction practice issued by the Environmental Protection and Safety Section Department.
They will also have to comply with each government department which issues its own building regulations, health and safety regulations, construction guidance and procedures manual.
Further, each of the freezone authorities has their own regulations for compliance, which is in addition to the federal and local orders as set out above. The numbers of published regulations go well into double figures.
It is therefore no surprise that our clients' health and safety consultants find it difficult to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations under the present system.
The common complaints are the difficulties experienced in locating the source of the regulations, and lack of information as to where to look to get the relevant guidelines needed for compliance.
Perhaps a glance at the numerous regulations confirms that health and safety issues, on and off site, are taken seriously and the subject will continue to be addressed by the authorities.
It is debatable whether there are marked differences in the health and safety standards, regulations and management between the various bodies.
The limitations in getting hold of information may stem from the lack of specific uniform guideline(s), which would also ensure that the training of both workforce and managers is adequate, consistent and effective.
A helpful way forward would be if the regulations were updated and the provisions brought together into a single regulatory package.
There is talk that there may be some initiative to co-ordinate the measures currently in place, and for the government entities to work in partnership with each other and the industry to simplify and add clarity to the health and safety laws so that risks can be managed more efficiently.
We are eagerly watching this space.