x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Have the new measures worked?

Officials have been waiting to see whether a team of building safety inspectors and a new safety manual would lead to fewer accidents on Dubai building sites.

Officials have been waiting to see whether an expanded team of building safety inspectors and a new safety manual would lead to fewer accidents on Dubai building sites. In July, Dubai Municipality's building department launched a safety manual after inspectors found an average of 12 safety violations a day at sites. The department has increased its team of safety inspectors from 15 to 28, with the promise of more officers to come.

The municipality says 865 accidents occurred at building sites between 2004-07, of which 45 per cent involved workers falling from high-rise buildings. Last year, workers falling accounted for 249 work site accidents, or nearly 48 per cent of the total. Fawzi al Shehi, the acting director of the building department, said yesterday it was too early to judge whether the new measures had been effective.

"The Ramadan season saw less construction activity and so we have to wait longer to get a clear picture," Mr Shehi said. "A clear idea will be available after a few months." Mr Shehi said only the Arabic version of the safety manual was available and a further drop in work site accidents could be expected after the English version was released by the end of the year. The manual, prepared after studying safety standards in countries such as the US and Canada, had specific safety guidelines for companies to follow. They risk fines up to Dh50,000 (US$13,600) and possible blacklisting if they fail to comply.

In June, the municipality collected fines of Dh1.5 million from construction companies for breaches of safety standards. Officials said common violations at sites were companies not providing helmets for workers, lack of safety barriers and workers on high-rise buildings without proper equipment or protection. The increased number of fires at building sites has also prompted the department to introduce stricter fire safety rules.

pmenon@thenational.ae