x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Firms join to reduce building site risks

Nearly 60 construction firms are sharing health and safety tips to reduce fatalities and injuries.

DUBAI // Nearly 60 construction firms are sharing health and safety tips to reduce fatalities and injuries on building sites across Dubai. Health and safety awareness "has come a long way since I first started here", said Stewart Cripps of Arab Tech, one of the member firms of Build Safe Dubai. The major problems are hand and eye injuries, as well as ones caused by workers falling.

Arab Tech is the largest construction company in the UAE and the fifth-largest in the Gulf, said Mr Cripps, who oversees the safety of 56,000 employees. "Where the system falls down is not with the bigger contractors who have international experience ... but the smaller subcontractors who may have less than 100 men and just want to get the job done. The last thing they want to see is a health and safety plan."

Build Safe Dubai pools its members' safety alerts and disseminates them in weekly emails. Arab Tech, like most other large construction companies, conducts its own safety meetings. "We invite subcontractors from our all sites every week to our 'toolbox' meetings to discuss health and safety, and we also discuss what Build Safe Dubai sent us," Mr Cripps said. "We don't want to be seen as the large company waving a big stick at smaller subcontractors, but if they are not doing it right, I will stop the job."

Accident reporting is not as transparent here as it is in Europe. "We only hear about deaths if they are in the paper," Mr Cripps said. "People are unaware of what's going on here." Michael Walker of Al Masaood Bergum said: "With this there are no political in-fights or brownie points for sharing our health and safety information. There is no commercial gain to this." The Abu Dhabi-based developer has been in the region for 30 years, and Mr Walker has seen a considerable increase in health and safety awareness. "Without a doubt it has improved. Having international players in Dubai has helped a lot because they have brought their own safety standards with them and have raised the game."

David Bass of Al Naboodah Construction has been working in the region since 1991 and has seen a significant increase in awareness. "The improvement of health and safety over the last three years has been phenomenal," he said. "What I saw happening 18 years ago will not be repeated again. There is awareness at government level and there are laws in the Middle East and in particular the UAE." @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae