Al Latifia looks again for seven-million safety

Contractor progresses with GOSI Park project and on-site innovations

Riyadh is one of the key recipients of new business districts.
Riyadh is one of the key recipients of new business districts.

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Even after seven million man-hours without a cause to stop work through worker injury, the risk of an on-site accident is ever present. This hard fact was experienced this summer by the contractor on one of Riyadh’s most ambitious mixed-use developments.

Al Latifia Trading & Contracting, a leading turnkey project construction company based in Saudi Arabia’s capital, was looking to break some kind of record since the beginning of last year for the safety record of its work on the SR1.525 billion General Organisation of Social Insurance Office & Housing Park.

For the first half of this year the number of millions of hours without a need to stop work kept increasing, thanks in large part to a thorough safety programme that included a multi-lingual handbook to get everyone, literally, on the same page. At one point it had gone seven million man hours without hindrance.

Lawson Guffey, the US-bred project manager for the Housing Park, has been behind much of the coordinations and smooth operations of the project since it first broke ground in January 2009.

“I was mandated for the whole project on the contracting side,” says Guffey. “I came here and put the project together, the safety, the quality control, selecting the engineers. We started with 40 people. Back in 2008 the contract was won and was signed at the beginning of 2009. We started working on the same day with the excavation of the space, with 90 pieces of equipment.”

The safety handbook, around 45 pages in length, was brought together from Guffey’s international experience in providing a clear message to the wide and miscellaneous workforce. “The handbook is in six languages. There are a lot of graphics, showing ‘this is correct’ ‘this is not correct’ procedure.

“I always look to make sure there is a common thing to understand the standards. In the past I have gone around sites in Saudi Arabia and have demanded to see the safety processes. If I don’t see the right safety procedures I’ll know not to work with that contractor.”

But in June, disaster struck the site. A young man from the Philippines working on one of the towers, speaking into his radio while walking across the site, did not see the Bob Cat backing out, and he was crushed.

The police filed a report concluding that the accident was the fault of the victim for not following correctly outlined procedures. Guffey says there is little that can be done in such a situation. “You can have safety procedures but you can’t stop something like this happening,” he says.

Though it put the number of hours without injury “back to the start”, the overall safety programme itself is impressive in its breadth.

“In Saudi Arabia, everyone wants to be complying with the US standard for safety. We go beyond that: here we combine the US and the German standards for building codes, and have three or four safety officers to communicate how things need to be done to all workers.

“For scaffolding, we check everything every day at the buildings and make sure the engineers sign off before a day’s work starts.

During his talk with ConstructionWeek he is interrupted by a call on his mobile phone. A colleague sought to inform him that a report was ready. He tells CW that the management team receive reports an all aspects of the project and the site, from safety, production, rebar and concrete operations to news on the labour force.

“There are inspections each step of the way, around 28,000 in total for all the areas.”

The project itself is highly ambitious. The whole development comprises two towers of 20 floors, two towers of 17 floors, two towers of 15 floors, two buildings of seven floors, two five-floor buildings, along with one business centre and 32 luxury villas.

Further, there is a four-floor car park underground, each floor 135,000 m2, topped off by a ceiling which, in the open air, will be adorned with landscaped gardens. Guffey says eventually workers and visitors will be able to walk from one side of the project to the other entirely underground, with 64 lifts to the surface.

Al Latifia has played an interesting role in the project’s development. “We have been adding to the original design, for example, with the addition of a health centre,” explains Guffey. “We realised if you are working in the business centres you need somewhere to relax.

"When the governor of the GOSI came to see the project in February we presented our ideas for this health centre. When he next came back he approved the design and we talked about other areas. The designs were sent to Omrani & Associates, the designers, and we are working very closely with them.”

Work has continued this summer, and the contractor will be looking to make further strides on the project and improve further its safety standards to beat its previous high number. The whole project is due for completion in December next year.

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