Safety on show
The ninth annual Intersec exhibition and conference will have an increased focus on health and safety. MEP Middle East reports.
The 2007 Intersec Middle East conference and exhibition is set to reflect the growing health and safety market in the region. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has chosen the January event to stage its first Middle East conference, throwing the spotlight on the annual security exhibition.
Guy Taylor, managing director of Momentum Creative Communications explains: "The conference has always included health and safety aspects, but never before has IOSH been involved."
"This will be the first conference to be held by IOSH out of the UK," confirms Toby Hayward, secretary of IOSH Middle East. "We wanted to have a local conference and Intersec is the largest security conference here and had a health and safety base, but we felt that we could expand on that base. What we are hoping to gain is to raise the profile of health and safety in the Middle East," he explains.
IOSH is Europe's largest organisation for safety and health professionals and is widely recognised in many areas as the benchmark authority on health and safety issues. A non-governmental organisation, it established a Middle East branch in 2006 and already has over 200 members in the region. "The impetus gained in the first six months has been quite dramatic," states Hayward.
The focus of the IOSH conference at Intersec will be on the business benefits of increased health and safety. "The cost to businesses is so high when things go wrong that [firms have] got to include aspects," states Taylor. "The cash benefits to companies are so huge that people have to take it seriously.
"The most recent tragedy in Dubai, the bus crash on Sheikh Zayed Road, is one example - the cost of time lost at work and the human costs were immense. That one episode would have cost millions of dollars," he states. In this one incident in December nine construction workers were killed and over 50 people injured when a bus carrying construction operatives crashed through a central road barrier in Dubai and overturned.
"The whole concept of health and safety being good business has been discussed for many years," states Hayward. "Huge corporations that are making a lot of money will have strict health and safety guidelines. It is to do with productivity as well - to try to avoid loss is essential, which includes human loss and production downtime."
IOSH incoming president Lisa Fowlie will chair the safety and health conference. Speakers will include Graeme McCaig, general manager of Dutco Balfour Beatty Group, who will focus on health and safety issues on a global and local scale. M Kamarajan, general manager HSE of the ETA Ascon Group will discuss the challenges and way forward for safety professionals in the Middle East.
Health and safety standards within the region are generally noted to be improving, although there is a way to go before levels established in European countries are reached. The nature of the region's operations and workforce are pushing this forward though, explains Hayward: "Legislation here is good on a general level but there is a lack of enforcement. The market has grown more aware and the influx of professionals from Europe and other countries that expect higher levels of health and safety has influenced the market," he adds.
"When you have companies from the international arena coming in this will have a direct effect on the standards they bring with them. It may not be legislative but they will have a certain idea on safety and quality and what they expect from these," Hayward states.
Global firms and organisations in the health and safety field will be exhibiting at Intersec, reinforcing the message. The British Safety Council (BSC) has attended the event since 2000 and will return in 2007. "We have seen considerable benefits from attending," explains Rhys Bush, BSC country manager, UAE. "We have two key objectives: to educate companies in terms of what they can do and to provide an auditing service. This is a good opportunity to meet our existing contacts and new firms."
The BSC has just appointed a full-time general manager for its regional branch and is seeking to recruit locally-based trainers and consultants. Bush believes that its presence at Intersec will aid them in making this permanent commitment to the region. "People often approach us at Intersec and meet the technical staff. We can let them know the opportunities available then," Bush adds. "We've seen major improvements in health and safety...in the last five years but there is still a huge opportunity to improve further in the region. A major driver has got to be an improvement in the knowledge of managers and safety professionals."
In addition to the organisations, many manufacturers of health and safety-based products will be exhibiting at Intersec. Coastal training Technologies will be showcasing its online safety training courses ClarityNet. The firm offers packages that can be customised to meet individual firm's needs.
Balder will introduce a new range of auto-darkening welding filters that use Advanced Dependence Compensation (ADC) technology, where liquid crystals are used to optimise viewing areas. Bacou-Dallouz will showcase ear protectors and safety eyewear, plus under a license agreement with Timberland PRO it will exhibit safety footwear, work wear jackets and gloves. Personal protective equipment (ppe) manufacturer Deltaplus Group will also be present at the show, the firm's presence in the region newly strengthened by the scheduled January opening of a UAE branch.
With multi-storey buildings now the norm in the Middle East, several firms will be exhibiting products aimed at working safely at height. Petzl intends to hang ropes from the ceiling of Zabeel Hall and demonstrate the latest rescue techniques, while ASR, a specialist in ropes, rescue kits and harnesses, will launch new products.
In addition to the Safety and Health ME exhibition and conference, Intersec Middle East incorporates three further events: Fire Middle East, Commercial Security Middle East and Police & Homeland Security Middle East. Organised by Messe Frankfurt, it is the largest security-focussed event in the region; over 600 firms are due to exhibit and more than 16,000 visitors are expected to attend the three-day event.