HSE standards are on the up in the UAE
While health and safety standards have gone from strength to strength in recent years, a crane crash in Abu Dhabi reminds the industry against the dangers of complacency
Industry experts say that health and safety standards on construction sites have noted significant improvements in recent years.
Senior industry figures suggest that health and safety has seen a big rise over the past decade, and the comments from one key stakeholder in particular suggest standards continue to go from strength to strength in the seven emirates.
At the 2018 Dubai Creative Clusters Authority’s (DCCA) World Health Safety Day in April 2018, the director of health, safety, and environment (HSE), Ahmad Al Sumaiti, explained to Construction Week that the number of workplace accidents and injuries in Dubai has witnessed a significant decline, with standards on site seeing a major improvement.
“Things have got so much better. You can’t imagine how good the numbers look. Even with the increasing jurisdiction [of the DCCA], the number of major accidents and fatalities has drastically decreased. But it’s not [only because of us] – it’s the people on the ground that have delivered this [through] their work and their commitment. The numbers are really, really impressive. I don’t remember [the last time I saw a fatality report], which is really good.”
Sumaiti did not reveal any statistics about the number of fatalities or injuries on construction sites, but he is not the only industry professional speaking positively about the progress being made on the ground to improve standards across the industry. Chief executive officer of Beaver Gulf, Rajesh Kumar Krishna told Construction Week that the UAE government’s efforts to enhance labour conditions have led to a significant improvement for migrant construction workers in the country. “The proactive steps that have been taken by various government departments is showing the results on the ground by reducing - across the board - the number of incidents,” he said.
While several senior figures, such as Sumaiti and Krishna, say standards have been on the rise, the market was dealt a stark warning against the dangers of complacency when a crane collapsed in Abu Dhabi this year. In April 2018, a mobile crane was dismantling a tower crane at a construction site in Abu Dhabi when a part of the tower collapsed, crushing several parked cars. Authorities did not report any injuries, but Abu Dhabi Municipality (ADM) suspended all of the activities of the contractor, subcontractor, and consultant involved in the accident.
Dr Huda Al Salmi, director of the Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Department, said at the time that an investigation into the accident had been opened and that the main contractor must take responsibility for the crane collapse. Local authorities such as ADM continue to stress the importance of complying with EHS’s risk assessment policy for construction projects in order to guarantee the safety of on-site workers and pedestrians. ADM has also revealed plans to strengthen contractor commitment and awareness around auditing and supervising subcontractors. This work includes monitoring the loading and unloading of heavy machinery, carrying out regular maintenance and third-party safety checks, and ensuring mobile crane drivers have required levels of experience.
Maintaining the highest health and safety standing is something that all stakeholders at the 4.38km2 site of Expo 2020 Dubai have consistently focused on, especially one considers that there will be an astonishing 35,000 workers on the site when construction hits its peak.
Commenting on these HSE standards earlier this year, Expo 2020 Dubai’s senior vice president for real estate and delivery, Ahmed Al Khatib, said site safety is a joint responsibility: “This is about our collective commitment to do the right thing and to demonstrate leadership to all our teams to make sure the high standards Expo 2020 has set are enforced across the project. The scale of the challenge facing us will grow greater and it is up to all of us to meet that challenge head on and to succeed.”