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Sat 22 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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Running to catch up

Tiny Gulf nation gazumped the US in an ultimate David vs. Goliath thrashing.

Running to catch up
(Getty Images).
Running to catch up

If 2010 taught us anything, it is that unless you are
prepared to move with the times, you will be left behind. Nothing brought this
more to the fore than in the days following Qatar’s
winning bid for the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup where, having survived through
to the final round of voting, the tiny Gulf nation gazumped the US in an
ultimate David vs. Goliath thrashing.

I was in Qatar
a day after the announcement, purely by chance, to cover the first
QPM-Construction Week HSE in Construction conference – and the sense of
achievement and anticipation was palpable. Who could blame them? Had I felled
one of the largest sporting nations in the world in a fight for the most
lucrative sports tournament in the world, I would have been bouncing off the
walls with excitement.

Thankfully, that is not the Qatari way of doing things. With
typical grace and reserve, QPM’s chief Dr Nasser Abdul Rahman Kamal told me
simply that the nation must now deliver on its promise to deliver the best
World Cup ever.

With that came the realisation that Qatar, and contractors
from the wider GCC countries who hope to get a piece of the action over the
coming 11 years, are going to come under an unprecedented level of scrutiny in
delivering projects on time, on budget and to the levels Qatar expects. It is
not just ensuring every tap, lightswitch and bulb works, and that major
infrastructure projects help lubricate the wheels of tourism – but that every
contractor lifts its game and tackles every project with complete and total

Now, that is not to suggest that contractors do not do so at
present – but adopting standards and having sustainable, workable health and
safety initiatives is going to be key if firms want to work in Qatar in the
future. Any firm that hasn't already rubbed the liniment of HSE deeply in to
its corporate muscle is running the risk of being sidelined and forgotten
forever over the next few months.

Some contractors take this responsibility a great deal
further than others by redefining their roles within a project. Without naming
names, one contractor told the group that they saw it as its responsibility to
not only design projects, but to include HSE initiatives in to its designs for
construction phases, helping to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and
accidents. Being able to eliminate ‘buildability’ issues early on and continue
to refine the process over several major projects, the contractor has been able
to increase its repeat business, reduce injuries and save project time and

It is this level of detail that contractors need to be
operating at to have any chance of securing work in Qatar in the lead-up to the World
Cup. And, rest assured, once developers become aware of the value they are
getting for their construction dollar from forward-thinking contractors and
consultants, those who fail to react will be left behind – not just in Qatar, but
throughout the region. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.

Part of the formula rests on clarity and assurance. If a
business can prove it has procedures in place, and takes an active stance in
quality control, then gaining contractor confidence becomes a lot easier. And,
having gone through the process of developing best working practices, no
contractor worth its salt would risk dealing with a company that has not made
that same level of commitment.

While a string of major contracts for the World Cup may
still be some time off, developing cohesive and fundamental changes to any
business structure for long-term growth is not an overnight process. It takes
months to perfect, and requires a drive from board level to permeate every
facet of the business. It also takes monitoring, reporting and refinement.

As QPM’s HSE director Wayne Harris advised, if you have not
yet sat down in your organisation and asked ‘what are we going to plan for the
World Cup?’, you are going to miss the boat, because when you come to tender,
the requirements are going to have changed – and you are going to have to be
ready for that.”

Carlin Gerbich is a Senior Reporter for Construction Week.

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