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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Health and safety must come first in construction

It is self-defeating if repair work leaves communities feeling worse rather than better off

Raha Gardens residents are upset about poorly managed construction work in their neighbourhood. Victor Besa / The National
Raha Gardens residents are upset about poorly managed construction work in their neighbourhood. Victor Besa / The National

Picture, if you will, the blissful scene that many expect when they join a quiet, safe and family-orientated community. Smiling children frolic in gardens or play catch in the street. Parents lounge on sun-drenched patios and enjoy the tranquillity and quiet. But as The National reported, the residents of one such community, Raha Gardens in Abu Dhabi, are instead dealing with a nightmarish reality. The clamour of large-scale industrial machinery fills the dust-clogged air. Bricks, mud and even sharp tools lie scattered in streets where children play. In one particularly distressing episode, a digger sweeps over a well-kept garden, narrowly missing a child’s – thankfully empty – swing.

Residents of the formerly peaceful neighbourhood, a sprawling development of 1,400 homes in Khalifa City, are subjected to daily drilling and hammering. Work began in the suburb last summer to upgrade the drainage system and repave roads. And while most residents would agree it is necessary to enhance the community, dozens have complained about the disruption, dangerous practices and regular flouting of health and safety regulations. Some are even considering moving altogether. Those furthest away from the building work are dreading the upset to their lives when construction workers finally make their way to their streets.

It is, of course, crucial that vital repair work is carried out where needed, particularly if it benefits a community. But health and safety must be paramount, particularly when children are risk of harm. Their safety must be protected first and foremost. The site should be visited frequently by inspectors to monitor the conditions in which work is carried out to ensure all concerned are adhering to the law. And in cases like this, there should be constructive dialogue between building companies and communities so they can air any concerns. One resident told The National it took more than a month to pave a single road, during which time dust and noise pollution filled the air. Clearly, contractors should aim to complete any work in as quick a timeframe as possible. It is self-defeating if work to improve neighbourhoods leaves communities feeling worse rather than better off.

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