AL AIN // The number of fatal accidents in Abu Dhabi workplaces fell sharply last year, according to the latest workplace health figures released.
There were 551 deaths on the job in 2010, a drop of 19 per cent from 680 in 2009.
Falls and falling objects continue to pose the most danger to labourers, the report said. But the overall decline in deaths concealed increases in work-related road deaths and drownings.
Since 2009, Abu Dhabi has had a standards and training centre for construction and maintenance work. It has 100 inspectors and runs publicity campaigns aiming to improve workplace safety.
However, officials from the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (HAAD) said the lower death toll might be attributable to the reduced pace of construction work in 2010, more than to any safety improvements.
As for non-fatal injuries, figures for 2010 are not yet available, But a six-month survey of Abu Dhabi casualty wards in 2008 found 1,689 occupational injuries.
"Trends are similar year to year," said Darren Joubert, a senior adviser in occupational health at HAAD. However, he added that since there has been no census since 2005, it is hard to gauge how much of any variation is down to the changing population.
Dr Michal Grivna, a professor in the department of community medicine at UAE University, said falls were the leading cause of hospitalisation.
Most people injured were labourers and construction workers, most commonly Indians, followed by Pakistanis and Bengalis. That information, said Mr Joubert, was crucial in deciding what languages information should be provided in.
"Of course slips, trips, and falls, are the most common ones," said Dr Tar-Ching Aw, the head of the department of community medicine at UAE University. "But the most dangerous job is operating a crane at the very top."
There is also risk, he said, in being in the vicinity of a working crane "with no helmet or anything". "This is a challenge of course in the UAE," he said.
While some doctors said traffic injuries in the course of a person's work should not be considered occupational injuries, Mr Joubert said that as the labour law included them, studies should, too.
Dr Shemma Paryani, an eye doctor at Al Ain hospital, said that industrial eye injuries were also common. A study she conducted between 2006 and 2009 found that three in five cases were work-related, most commonly from nails bouncing into the eye, and from grinding.
She also found that eye injuries were common in date factories. "The leaves from the palm tree are very sharp," she said.
According to Dr Ali Damanhouri, an emergency doctor at Tawam Hospital, workplace accidents are the second most common cause of emergency cases, after road accidents.