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Wed 11 Sep 2013 08:08 AM

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Arabtec says labourers to blame for site accidents

Builder's group COO says foreign workers ignoring health and safety standards and taking shortcuts

Arabtec says labourers to blame for site accidents
(AFP/Getty Images)

Labourers taking short-cuts are to blame for the majority of injuries on construction sites, a top executive at Arabtec, one of the largest builders in the Gulf, has said.

Work place safety is a particular concern in the GCC, where there is rapid development in relatively immature markets that rely on low-paid foreign labour and do not have unions.

Arabtec group chief operating officer Mark Andrews said safety standards in the UAE were “variable, if nothing else” and were “inconsistent” compared to more established markets such as the UK.

“If I compare [the UAE] to a market like the UK, what you see is something that is far more consistent; the safety standards are almost mandated by government and by a combination of industry bodies, whereas in this market it is far, far less consistent,” he told a construction conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

“Some of the projects that we have, and indeed that others are doing, the safety is at world-class levels and the challenge for those of us running the businesses is to get them all to world-class levels.”

But employees “ignoring” procedures made it difficult for managers to meet the highest safety standards.

“There is no excuse for not running safe operations [but] given the work forces that we have there are additional challenges in doing that,” Andrews said.

“I’m sure the vast majority of contractors ... see the same as me: the vast majority of lost time injuries continue to be on people knowing the procedure but just not following it [causing] slips, trips [and] falls.

“The equipment is there, the process is there, the method is there but they just ignore it and they take the shortcut.

“You just have to stay on top of it all the time.”

Qatar, which is preparing for the 2022 World Cup, has particularly faced international union scrutiny over its workplace safety record.

The number of falls from heights has nearly doubled from 600 in 2008 to 1000, according to the director of the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Hamad Medical Corporation, Dr Ahmed Zarour.

The International Trade Union Confederation slammed the country as a "21st-century slave state" earlier this year over its alleged poor conditions for guest workers and human rights abuses.

The world’s leading union claimed that 191 Nepali workers died in Qatar in 2010, most of them because of heart attacks caused by outdoor temperatures rising to up to 50C.

"More labourers will die in Qatar during construction than the footballers who step on the pitch," secretary general Sharan Burrow told AFP.

“The way Qatar takes advantage of migrant workers is a disgrace to football.”

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HD_dxb 6 years ago

if an adult gives a hammer to a child and that child hurts himself, is the child really to blame?

kingkaiser 6 years ago

Yeah...having seen these guys working, is it possible that they take shortcuts because they are pressured by their seniors? I doubt these guys, with zero hope of professional growth or time off, are being extra efficient for fun.

Also, how is dying due to "heat" the fault of the laborers?

twistedtory 6 years ago

Incentives for job sites and/or teams. Small cash awards, phone cards, days off, cinema tickets, etc. for a monthly "safety champion" who complies and promotes safety rules & regs. A big annual award for zero accidents. You want them to comply, make something they want within reach for doing so.

Paul 6 years ago

"Arabtec says labourers to blame for site accidents"!!!
I say that Arabtec has exposed to the world the level of ignorance of that "top executive".
I will keep this article for training purposes, it's a good illustration of the construction industry in this region!
If a company fails to train their staff, to enforce their policies and to pay then decent salaries, should not be in business as its a threat to the safetuy of its workers and public in general!

Neil 6 years ago

The market in the UK is regulated is a mixture of reasons including independent judiciary, properly enforced laws, unions and proper compensation including access for life to the national health service and not bounced out of the country back home as soon as the visa can be withdrawn. So Mark Andrews, of the above, whats lacking?

prakash 6 years ago

so typical of Arab construction companies to say this!
these comments/attitudes are a big turn off for ppl living here in otherwise great cities!