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Sun 3 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Increased safety is a must

By the time you've finished reading this editorial at least one person in the world will have died from a construction industry-related fatality.

By the time you've finished reading this editorial at least one person in the world will have died from a construction industry-related fatality.

This stark reality was brought home by figures announced by the UK-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) at Intersec 2008.

IOSH president Ray Hurst reported that there are currently around 60,000 deaths per year worldwide that are directly accountable to the sector. This is the equivalent of one death every ten minutes. The number of workers affected by injuries and ill-health is greater still.

After years of talking by organisations and governments around the globe about improving safety conditions, that this number of people are still being killed annually is scandalous. It is unacceptable that someone should die simply because they are doing their job. So how can this situation be changed?

IOSH has called for true investment in health and safety and emphasised the need to employ properly trained and qualified practitioners for the task.

It is currently lobbying the UK government to have health and safety recognised as a profession, reasoning that such a move will make the regulation of personnel offering such services easier and more effective.

If approved, it is expected that other governments worldwide will follow suit. Moves are also being made more locally to increase standards. This month it was announced that the UAE Ministry of Labour will form an independent agency that will focus solely on inspecting health and safety standards on site. Currently in the planning stages, it is expected that the agency will be operational within the next few months.

The move is part of the Ministry's plans to upgrade health and safety regulations in the Emirates. Both higher standards and tougher penalties for violators are expected to be announced.

Some of the larger firms operating in the region also appear to be raising the stakes for health and safety. Developer Nakheel, for example, has launched a dedicated training centre, which also highlights another side to issue - that of business costs and opportunities. As well as the human loss, consider for a moment the costs in time and money that would be faced should an incident happen to one of your workers, or on a site for which you are responsible.

There is still much to be done to increase health and safety on construction sites. But it cannot all be left to governments and companies - it is the responsibility of every individual working within the industry to ensure that all workers arriving for work each morning can return home safely at night.

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