x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bus safety rules benefit everyone

Investing in the safety and well-being of labourers will help the whole community.

The tragic accident in Dubai on Saturday that killed 13 labourers brought attention to the poor quality of workers’ buses and its implications for road safety across the UAE. As The National reported yesterday, bus drivers have called upon the authorities to improve vehicle standards and enforce minimum safety requirements.

These calls were supported by the Emirates Human Rights Association, whose representatives visited four of the surviving labourers at Rashid Hospital on Sunday. Salem Al Mamari, head of the society’s labour committee, said that the long distance between labourers’ workplaces and their accommodation is “unacceptable”, especially when they are not compensated for the hours spent on the road. Many labourers and bus drivers suffer from depression and lack of sleep, and they are usually exhausted after a long day of work.

Given that labourers have no option but to use work buses, the issue requires immediate attention. Tougher rules should be in place to ensure the well-being of people who work hard to help build this country. Employers should be required to compensate workers for time spent on the road beyond a set limit, say one hour each way. There should also be limits to how long a driver can be behind the wheel. Buses should be roadworthy and fitted with seat belts that passengers are required to wear.

Although workers’ buses are legally required to have air conditioning, many do not. This is a serious problem, especially as temperatures soar during the summer months, potentially making drivers drowsy and inattentive. It is believed that the driver involved in Saturday’s accident fell asleep because he had been working for a long time.

Safety campaigner Shamma Al Zaabi has estimated that 70 per cent of workers’ buses do not comply with existing safety standards, and a submission she has written on the issue has been referred to the Ministry of Labour. We urge the ministry to ensure the full enforcement of current safety rules and to consider further regulations where necessary.

The standard of school buses has improved notably in recent years. It is now time to focus on workers’ buses. Investing in the safety and well-being of labourers will benefit everyone. Making workers comfortable and secure on their daily commute will improve their health and the quality of their work, and raise the overall level of safety on our roads.