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Thu 25 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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H&S standards not up to scratch

A bad staff safety record could result in a bad press for local construction firms.

Scenes of thick black smoke emitting from the 29th floor of Fortune Tower were reeled on TV screens across the world before even the local press gathered their stories on the disaster.

As Neil Wallington, former chief fire officer of the UK's Devon Fire & Rescue pointed out at Intersec Middle East last week, "It's a sad fact, but disasters do make news globally", and even more so those that occur in Dubai, where the media spotlight is shining brightly on current construction activity.

While investigations got underway into the cause of the fire, the issue of health and safety standards in the region returned to the fore.

Let's not forget that the tragedy at Fortune Tower wasn't the only fatal accident to occur on a construction site in recent weeks.
Construction Week

may have reported on the car park roof collapse at the La Solarium building in Dubai Silicon Oasis, along with the scaffolding collapse in Al Nahda, Sharjah, but there are, no doubt, many others across the region that don't make the headlines.

The general consensus among the health and safety experts who gathered at Intersec was that standards in the region simply aren't up to the mark. One expert referred back to the days, not all that many years ago, when buildings in Dubai only reached 10 floors.

Before long, skyscrapers hit the drawing boards and were built at such a pace that not much time was devoted to ensuring that all of those working on the project, including the support services, were kept up to speed with the changing health and safety requirements needed for much more complex structures.

Another point made was the urgent need for health and safety training programmes for construction workers.

While some contractors may already be doing this, their scope and how they are communicated seem to be limited.

Investing in better training processes may pose an extra cost for contractors, but in the long-term it will not only guarantee a committed and efficient workforce, but will protect a company's reputation.

After all, who needs bad press?

“Investing in better training processes may pose an extra cost for contractors, but in the long-term will not only guarantee a committed and efficient workforce, but will protect

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