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Construction crews work on the foundation of the Masdar Institute in Masdar City on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
Construction crews work on the foundation of the Masdar Institute in Masdar City on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

Building site accident reporting 'is flawed'

The reporting of accidents on construction sites is flawed, with reports lacking basic information, says a study.

ABU DHABI // The reporting of accidents on construction sites is flawed, a new study says. The problems include a lack of basic information, such as the injured person's nationality and the machinery being used, according to the UAE University study. The Ministry of Labour's safety and inspections office plans next week to review how the information is collected. "The system the ministry is using right now is kind of general," said Noura al Kaabi, the lead researcher of the study. "The safety department is covering all kinds of occupational hazards so it's not particular for construction. We designed a better, simplified computer database for the ministry that fits with the construction industry."

She characterised the proposed reporting system as "a report and an investigation at the same time" because of the depth of information it allows. "If we have a fall, you select where he falls from," she said. "An elevated platform, a roof, an opening, a staircase or scaffolding? And then what kind of fall protection was in place - a guard rail system or safety nets? Was he pushed or was it a defective fall protection system?"

The director of the inspections department at the ministry, Muhsin Saeed, said yesterday that it has been in contact with Ms al Kaabi. "Maybe we can mix her system and ours together," he said. Health and safety managers of major developers also urged the ministry to improve how it records construction accidents. Dave Bass, of Al Naboodah Contracting Company, said that while builders were required by law to enter basic information such as the person's name and sex, "there are also some strange questions there".

"If you look to the labour law, there is a table that tells you one of the items you're supposed to have within the reports is how much the guy was earning," he said. "What on earth does that matter to an accident report?" Andrew Broderick of Aldar Properties, one of the country's largest developers, said that before yesterday he was unaware of any kind of form used by the ministry for occupational accidents.

"I've never seen this before in my life," Mr Broderick said after receiving a faxed copy. He said the form was inadequate for the construction industry. "I know that straight away because it asks for 'profession or trade', so this could be oil and gas, this could be working in a factory or a kitchen." Mr Broderick and Mr Bass stressed that the fundamental problem was a lack of enforcement. "Do the little companies actually report their statistics?" he asked. "I know of some small companies of 200 or 300 people that build two or three villas at a time and they're not reporting anything."

Ms al Kaabi said one of the study's objectives was to help the ministry determine which companies should be awarded contracts. Those with poor safety records could be ruled out. The trade group Safe Build UAE recently published figures showing there were 20 fatalities last year and 690 lost-time injuries on construction sites. The most common cause of injury was falling from height, with 81 incidents.

mkwong@thenational.ae

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