x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

New ruling on work emergencies

Safety in the workplace is a focus of Dubai Municipality's weeklong labour campaign.

DUBAI // A new regulation requiring all companies to develop emergency-response plans will soon be enforced by the municipality, an official has said.

Sultan Essa al Suwaidi, head of the municipality's safety section at the Public Health and Safety Department, said the ruling would ensure employers and employees are following precautions to minimise workplace accidents.

At least 70 per cent of work-site accidents in 2010 were related to working at heights, according to Mr al Suwaidi. Causes for accidents included poorly-erected scaffolding and workers not wearing the correct protective gear.

About 1,284 inspections were carried out by the 18 inspectors in the Safety Section at public areas last year. A total of 169 fines were handed out to companies, with a maximum penalty of Dh50,000.

"We want each company to create a Corporate Risk Management and Emergency Plan. Following an initial assessment of risks, an emergency- response plan, which will vary from company to company, should be created," said Mr al Suwaidi. "We will begin by raising awareness before fully introducing the project over the coming months.

"We want to highlight that companies are fully responsible for the safety of their workers and equipment used, which must be safe at all times. We're not waiting for accidents to happen or to hand out fines, we focus on prevention," said Mr al Suwaidi.

Mohammed Abdul Karim Julfar, assistant director general of Dubai Municipality, said: "Labourers make up 50 per cent of the total *[municipality] workforce in Dubai. We have to listen to them and we have to meet their needs and requirements. Whether its increasing their salaries or bettering their living standards, it's a company's duty to ensure their workers know they are there for them."

Mr Julfar was speaking at the launch of municipality's month-long labourers' festival, which began on International Workers' Day yesterday at a camp in Al Muhaisina-2.

"Summer is coming. It is getting hot and humid and it is our moral duty to ensure their safekeeping at this time," said Mr Julfar.

Events this week will include educational awareness programmes, religious competitions, cultural, social and recreational activities and lectures on topics such as HIV (presented by Dubai Police), food safety, hygiene monitoring and summer disease and vaccinations.

"This effort is very good, because nobody ever thinks of the labourers," said a worker from Pakistan, Sayed Mohammed Ameen, who has been in Dubai for 35 years. "Now they are highlighting the workers who are in the field working in the heat. They are celebrating with us, the poor people."

The head of Occupational Health and Safety, Raed Mohamed al Marzouqi, said the focus of International Labour Day is to ensure employees receive their due respect.

"Workplace safety is a global concern. We started distributing 2,000 brochures and 2,000 posters in both English and Arabic for employees and employers as a gentle reminder that rules must be followed," said Mr al Marzouqi, "If an accident happens, questions will be raised."

Although workplace accidents in the emirate have seen a steady decrease over the past few years, he said the department takes the issue very seriously. The team also started distributing vitamins and supplements ahead of the soaring summer temperatures.

"Until the end of June there will be a soft distribution of vitamins and minerals. As the summer approaches, there is a higher risk of accidents because the body can start to lose energy, disease can spread or a worker can suffer from heat stroke," he said.

After June, distribution efforts will pick up.

"The main goal is to promote a safe and healthy work culture as a moral obligation and as part of the responsibility to prevent accidents and to ensure workers return home safely," said Mr al Marzouqi.


* This article was altered to clarify a statement made by Mohammed Abdul Karim Julfar. He was referring to the total municipal workforce, and not the workforce of Dubai, when he mentioned that 50 per cent were labourers.