Tough new penalties for breaking smoking regulations include fines worth thousands of dirhams and shutting down businesses.
Smoking bans to be stepped up with zero tolerance
DUBAI // Municipal authorities have issued warnings to companies and businesses in public places caught breaking smoking regulations, saying they will implement zero tolerance policies.
The Department of Public Health and Safety is getting stricter and enforcing tough penalties which could include businesses being shut down, said Redha Hassan Salman, the department's director. Fines for such offences start at Dh5,000 and can go higher depending on the type of offence.
"Some premises violate their permit while others do not even have a permit at all, so we are heavily focusing on this issue," Mr Salman said. "Immediate action will be taken, especially with places we receive complaints about. Consequences for not following regulations could be partial or full closure."
The authority is also considering an initiative banning young children and infants from smoking zones.
The health of children is at the forefront of the Municipality's goal to ensure the highest standards of pubic health, he said.
Occupational safety is also an area of concern for the department, which will come down heavily on those not adhering to safety regulations on building sites as they put themselves and others in danger. No excuse for failing to meet basic safety requirements, such as having personal protective gear at hand, will be acceptable, Mr Salman said.
The department is teaming up with various government bodies including the Ministry of Labour, Dubai Civil Defence and the Roads and Transport Authority for awareness campaigns scheduled throughout the year to ensure regulations are being complied with across the board.
"One of the main challenges we face in this area includes unskilled labour that have little or no knowledge on safety issues, so they become a risk factor," said Mr Salman. "We will be even more strict in checking occupational safety, especially in terms of proper usage and provisions of personal protective equipment."
Companies must comply in accordance to approved international safety standards such as American Society for Testing and Materials and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Harish Chambala, the secretary of Al Shafar General Contracting's safety department, said ensuring workers receive constant training in safety is of paramount importance to his firm.
"If one of our safety officers sees an employee violating a safety rule he will give him a verbal warning," said Mr Chambala. "If that same person is caught again a written warning will also be sent to the project manager."
Each new employee receives a safety induction at the start of their term with main highlights including knowledge of emergency exits and usage of personal protective equipment.
"Onsite accidents have generally decreased and now we may have just one or two minor injuries recorded each month," Mr Chambala said. "We have weekly safety programmes for all staff and provide stickers to be placed on helmets so we know who did or did not attend the sessions."
The Municipality checks the sites at least once a month and the company also has a monthly internal safety audit. "The Municipality usually gives a warning if a violation is found, then black points will be given. The maximum is 15, after which a fine will be handed to the company," said Mr Chambala.
Mr Salman added that although occupational safety is of deep concern, the number of accidents had fallen last year.
"Occupational accidents have decreased by 8 per cent on work sites and we saw a 13 per cent decrease in accidents in public places," he said.
Another 2011 goal is improving air quality as per the Green Buildings Initiative set by the emirate's government to make all buildings environmentally friendly and sustainable. Compliance will be mandatory in three years.
"We are focusing on indoor public buildings such as malls, schools, buildings and mosques to make sure owners are starting to comply with this essential aspect of the Green Buildings initiative," said Mr Salman.
Facts about Dubai Municipality smoking inspections
More than 90 per cent of the Public Health and Safety Department team at Dubai Municipality act as inspectors, including the director Redha Hassan Salman, who at times personally inspects public areas.
Total inspections last year: In excess of 20,000
Samples taken 100,000,including consumer products and indoor air supply quality
Smoking compliance in 2010
Shopping malls: 91.5 per cent
Hotels and resorts: 85 per cent
Entertainment (including bowling centres and billiard halls): 93 per cent
Restaurants and cafes: No figures available due to high non-compliance.
Source: Dubai Municipality