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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Company dedicated itself to road-safety message after two staff bus crashes

At a road-safety forum, Serco Middle East highlighted how 'safety champs' and staff pledges helped it improve its accident record

In the UAE, the big car is king. Reem Mohammed / The National
In the UAE, the big car is king. Reem Mohammed / The National

After two major minibus crashes involving its staff, a multi-industry company in the region took it upon itself to drive home a road safety message to its staff.

Using explanatory videos in five languages, appointing safety champs and making staff sign a pledge to wear a seatbelt, Serco Middle East has overhauled its safety procedures and prevented further crashes.

Two years ago, a minibus carrying Serco staff flipped over in Saudi Arabia and, in the same year, another bus, this time in Abu Dhabi, was involved in a head-on crash. None of the back-seat passengers had their seatbelts on and one woman ended up landing upside down and breaking her collar bone.

It caused the company to lose 135 working days as 18 staff were sent to hospital and it was the catalyst for change.

“At this point, road safety became a top priority for us,” said Laura Kelly, assurance director at Serco.

“The CEO said, ‘I don’t want to hear of any more of our staff getting hospitalised in 2016’.”

From that point, drivers underwent retraining, educational talks were held, wearing a seatbelt became compulsory and staff had to sign a commitment that they would do so.

Senior staff at the company also became watchdogs who would flag any unsafe driving practices, such as talking on phones while driving.

Read more: 100 die on Dubai's roads in nine months this year

Serco, which employs 4,500 people in the region, also produced a sophisticated video, translated into five languages, and, along with road safety experts and technology pioneers, started an annual forum to exchange experiences and best practices. The second such forum was held on Tuesday.

Ms Kelly believes the efforts have had a direct impact in bringing down staff casualties.

“In 2016, we set a target to have zero multiple injuries as a result of minibus accidents, and we have achieved that target,” she said.

“In 2015, no one was wearing a seatbelt so there were major broken bones, one lady turned upside down and broke her collar bone and there were weeks spent in hospital.”

Lost working days due to road injuries are also now down to 50, from 135.

“Today is to say, ‘this is what we did for Secro, and a number of others organisations did something similar, so let us share our information and share best practice,” said Ms Kelly.

Captain Saleem Al Amimi, from Dubai Police’s traffic institute, was in attendance at the forum and said that reducing road deaths to 0 by 2030 may seem far-fetched but it is possible. He said the force has already managed to bring it down from more than 20 per 100,000 people in 2008 to about three now.

“So it’s a big drop, and therefore it is possible,” he said.

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