x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Building site accidents increase is 'downside to property revival'

Number in first four months almost double that of start to last year.

DUBAI // The alarming rise in the number of accidents on building sites is a downside to a recovering property market, a municipal official says.

Nearly 100 accidents were reported in the first four months of this year, almost double the number reported in the same period last year.

"The number of accidents are high because the business is better and more active since early 2012, hence there are more mistakes," said Ahmed Kareem, Dubai Municipality's principal safety engineer.

The civic body says it will increase training efforts on its safety code.

"We saw that most fatalities were caused because of either falling from heights or due to scaffolding collapse," said Mr Kareem.

"We started giving our inspectors training and concentrating on the main causes of the accidents. We saw the statistics and decided to do this."

In January, two workers died and nine were injured when scaffolding at a Dubailand site collapsed on them.

Hundreds of labourers were at work on the residential tower when the scaffolding around the nine-storey building built by Al Qandeel Contracting on the Dubai-Al Ain Road fell.

Municipality safety codes dictate that building companies must ensure scaffolding is adequately secured and stable, of sound material and free of patent defects.

The structure should also be suitable for the work being done and workers must use the necessary protection measures, such as safety harnesses.

Companies are encouraged to have their scaffolding quality tested by a certified company if it is at a height of more than 38 metres. It has recognised 35 companies to conduct the inspections.

Mr Kareem said the testing and certification could be mandatory soon. Faulty scaffolding could lead to fines, stopped work and eventually suspension of a licence, in the event of an accident.

"We will give them notice to stop work until it is rectified," he said.

The municipality's public health and safety department said last month construction and industrial companies would have to train and accredit workers to become safety officers from the end of this year.

Although accident numbers have increased, the municipality says fatalities have dropped since 2010 when 16 people died. Last year, five people died.

So far this year, the two workers at Dubailand are the only fatalities.

"After several steps taken by us, the number of deaths has fallen," said Mr Kareem.

pkannan@thenational.ae