x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Snap inspections boost safety in Abu Dhabi construction sites

A team of engineers turn up at 10 construction sites in the Mussaffah unannounced in order to carry out inspections as part of a drive to raise awareness of hazards.

Mohammed Al Houssani, left, head of inspection and monitoring at Abu Dhabi Municipality, shows a poster of major hazards as part of a health and safety campaign, at a building site in Mussaffah. Ravindranath K / The National
Mohammed Al Houssani, left, head of inspection and monitoring at Abu Dhabi Municipality, shows a poster of major hazards as part of a health and safety campaign, at a building site in Mussaffah. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // On the fourth floor of a residential tower being built in Mussaffah, inspectors immediately notice an open lift shaft with no barrier to stop an unsuspecting workman plunging 16 metres to the ground.

"Some people, if they think this is a room, they could go inside and fall from a height," said Mohammed Al Houssani, head of inspection and monitoring at the environment, health and safety division of Abu Dhabi Municipality.

He asked for a barrier at the entrance to the empty lift shaft, which was immediately provided by the site engineer.

The hazard was just one discovered by Mr Al Houssani and four of his division's inspection engineers yesterday.

The team arrived unannounced at 10 building sites in the Mussaffah industrial area to carry out inspections as part of a drive against hazards.

In 2011, the first year for which statistics were kept, the municipality recorded 29 accidents at building sites, 10 of them fatal.

"The campaign is to increase awareness relating to environment, health and safety, and avoid any serious injury or fatality during the construction activity," Mr Al Houssani said.

A makeshift wooden step ladder also attracted the inspectors' attention at the first site they visited.

"Anything home-made, we cannot accept," said Mr Al Houssani. "It's one of our violations. We stop them from using this kind of ladder."

There were also problems with the scaffolding, with a lack of toe boards and guard rails.

"We stop the unsafe working on scaffolding. They are not following the whole safety precaution system in order to avoid people falling from height," said Mr Al Houssani.

Unsafe scaffolding is the main problem on construction sites and a poster illustrating safety requirements has been produced to get the message across clearly.

"If you explain it to them verbally, they will find problems in understanding it exactly. The poster shows them exactly," Mr Al Houssani said.

Available in Arabic and English, the posters will also be made in Hindi and Urdu.

Site engineer Abdul Rahman was happy to do as the inspectors asked yesterday.

"It's a good idea. It's helping safety," he said. "What he tells me to do I will do. If they ask me to remove all the scaffolding, I will remove it and change it."

Labourer Shiren Zaman, from Afghanistan, said: "With the posters it's more clear for me. I understand exactly. We are lucky the Government comes and does inspections to take care of us."

At the second site visited, a residential and commercial tower, the inspectors found a tripping hazard - a wire lying across the stairs.

And some of the workers were not wearing the correct kit, which includes safety shoes, helmets and gloves.

The inspections are not aimed at the labourers but at the management, Mr Al Houssani stressed.

"The Government is always looking around us to protect us," said Egyptian labourer and father of five, Ahmed Abdulradi, 45.

At the end of the second inspection, Mr Al Houssani briefed project manager Mahmoud Sabra on what had been found and what needed to be done.

"Now I will take action to correct all of these requirements and I will follow all safety instructions," said Mr Sabra, from Lebanon.

Yesterday's inspections, on construction sites chosen at random, were held in conjunction with the awareness campaign, so no fines were issued.

Fines of between Dh1,000 and Dh50,000 are usually issued if breaches are found on building sites.

ecleland@thenational.ae