x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Construction site hazards spill over

It's time that construction companies recognised, and addressed, the safety risks they are placing passersby under.

At the end of last year, Abu Dhabi Municipality introduced a new set of rules requiring construction companies to provide a comprehensive safety plan for their work sites.

The permits were intended to reduce workers' injuries and deaths; companies were informed that Municipality inspectors would visit sites to ensure the new regulations were being implemented. The regulations were a welcome protection for the hard workers who are building the national infrastructure. Now the rest of us could use similar protections.

As The National reports today, many residents who live near construction sites say they are concerned about the personal risks and expenses incurred from debris falling on to roads and car parks from construction sites. While the article is about Dubai specifically, anecdotal evidence shows that the same hazards exist across the UAE.

Nails and sharp objects puncture tyres, not only incurring expense but putting drivers' safety at risk; parked cars are hit by falling debris, including glass and cement; sewage leaks flood roads; and pavements are cordoned off with no alternative pathways for pedestrians. What makes it even worse is the cavalier attitude of some companies, which simply post notices to "park at your own risk" or "company assumes no liability" for the hazards they have created.

In some cases, residents have had no option but to take action themselves. Last year, Nabil Hamade, a Lebanese resident of Dubai, started picking up nails and other rusty metal items that littered roads near the route where he takes his morning jog. "Dubai is relatively much better than many Middle Eastern countries, but could improve the areas around the construction sites," Mr Hamade said. "Sometimes I would collect 30 nails a day and could not take anymore because I would have filled up the pockets of my shorts."

We recognise Mr Hamade's civic effort to clean up the city - but equally we appreciate that he has brought attention to the careless practices of too many construction companies. Just as construction scrap can pose a threat to safety, it is often a blight on the environment, with an unfortunate trend of companies dumping waste in the remote desert.

For too long construction firms have acted with little accountability in matters of safety. We have seen municipalities pass laws for workers' safety, and we would like to see a similar effort to protect passersby.