x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai acts to cut high-rise accidents

Construction firms in Dubai will have to comply with stricter safety regulations for labourers working on tall buildings.

Inspectors from Dubai Municipality have found at least 12 safety violations a day during their visits to work sites.
Inspectors from Dubai Municipality have found at least 12 safety violations a day during their visits to work sites.

DUBAI // All construction firms will have to comply with stricter safety regulations for labourers working on tall buildings or face being fined or blacklisted, officials said yesterday. Nearly half the accidents at building sites in recent years have involved workers falling from high-rise buildings, resulting in serious injuries and even death, according to official statistics.

Dubai Municipality acted after its inspectors found a large number of safety violations during visits to work sites. They have been finding at least 12 violations a day, officials said. Construction companies will now have to meet safety standards set in a new rule book issued by the municipality or face fines of up to Dh50,000 (US$13,624) and even banning. The main changes involve safety requirements for workers on tall buildings.

Essa al Maidour, the assistant director general for planning and building affairs, said the manual resulted from the municipality's "great concern for safety issues and a need to introduce future standards for the same". It outlines general and specific safety procedures for all types of construction and demolition work along with associated jobs. According to municipality statistics, workers falling from high-rise buildings accounted for 45 per cent of the 865 construction industry accidents in Dubai from 2004 to 2007. Nearly 48 per cent of last year's 249 work site accidents involved people falling from buildings.

"We have dedicated four chapters in our new safety manual just to this particular issue," Mr Maidour said. "This is a serious concern for us and we believe that the consultant as well as the contractor is responsible for these accidents." The municipality was making random checks to ensure the regulations were observed, he said. Other accidents included collapses at work sites, which accounted for 23 per cent of the total, incidents involving cranes and other machinery (14 per cent) and fire and electric shock (seven per cent).

Municipality officials said companies had been caught violating basic safety rules such as not providing helmets for workers, failing to erect safety barriers and allowing men to work on high rises without protection. Fawzi Mohammed al Shehi, the acting director of the building department at Dubai Municipality, said some firms committing safety violations had already been ordered to stop work for several days.

"Last month, we collected fines of Dh1.5 million from construction companies for violating safety and not maintaining working standards specified by the municipality," he said. At present, 15 inspectors check an average of 150 sites every day. But the municipality plans to triple the number of inspectors in a few months, Mr Shehi said. According to Mr Maidour, the new safety regulations are part of the municipality's plan to introduce a complete legal framework in line with its Strategic Plan 2007-2011. Authorities had consulted US and Canadian safety regulations while drawing them up, he said.

The manual included new fire safety precautions to counter the number of fires at buildings under construction, officials said. Mr Shehi said: "The consultants and contractors have to give top priority for early installation of permanent fire protection devices and to arranging water tanks and water pumps at construction sites to put out fires ? This is applicable even if the building is complete and ready for occupation."

The manual also outlines general safety rules and defines the roles and responsibilities of employers, consultant engineers, contractors and sub-contractors regarding safety issues. It lists minimum safety requirements and arrangements to be made for them during all phases of construction. The manual will be available in both English and Arabic. Asked about work site accidents that have gone unnoticed and have not been reported to the municipality, Mr Maidour said: "It is the responsibility of the consultant and the contractor to report any accident. Companies which do not report cases have been fined and will continue to face penalties."

The manual emphasises that every contractor should appoint safety officers at work sites based on the number of workers and the size of the site. @Email:pmenon@thenational.ae