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Mon 1 Jan 2007 04:00 PM

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Health & safety must be improved

This year is going to see professionals within the FM industry raise its profile in the region and generate a lot more awareness and understanding of what FM is and what it can do.

This year is going to see professionals within the FM industry raise its profile in the region and generate a lot more awareness and understanding of what FM is and what it can do.

Intersec 2007 will see IOSH (Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) Middle East host its first ever conference in the region. In a place where health & safety strives to exist in companies and by local laws, many companies are using European and International standards as benchmarks.

Although this is great best practice, it doesn't seem many companies are actually taking note.

New exhibition, Working Buildings Middle East, will be the second FM show to hit the region in the space of 18 months. Along side this, research company Frost & Sullivan has been appointed research partner by the conference organisers in their quest to extensively explore the FM and building management sector across the Middle East.

During an interview this month I was horrified to find out that some companies in the Middle East actually budget for employee death.

Firstly, and I think you will all agree, you cannot put a price on somebody's life. It doesn't matter what position they hold within the company or what nationality they are - the company employing them should have stringent policies in place to ensure the highest health, safety and security standards at work.

Instead of budgeting for employee deaths, why not plough some money and resources into making an effective health and safety policy? It should include areas like training, equipment standards and safer working conditions.

Investing in these areas will increase the level of respect current employees have for the company and potential employees will be more attracted to a company that values its staff.

In a region hoping to be the number one tourist destination it's inevitable that people visiting the Middle East will comment on the amount of construction work taking place. Therefore, instead of the current perception of health & safety in the region being at the possible detriment of the country's tourism boom, visible procedures and signs should be put in place to help improve the region's reputation.

Another important point to think about is that the recruitment pool in places like India will not last forever and soon, the ‘if a worker dies we'll employ another one' attitude will have to change.

Many of the traditional under-developed countries are now experiencing their own economic boom with an increase in salaries and therefore succeeding in keeping nationals employed in their native region.

Either the focus of where to recruit will have to change, or the benefits and package will have to increase to make the Middle East seem a more attractive working environment.

But more importantly, laws that govern and promote the health & safety of employees should be a forceful factor for companies to think about seriously. Introducing weighty fines for companies who do not meet international standards could well make them think twice before putting costs before an employee's life.

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