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Sat 1 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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The interest of safety

Waiel Manfalouiti discusses the need for tighter regulations in the industry.

Waiel Manfalouiti, general manager, House of Equipment, one of the top five crane and construction equipment providers in the UAE, discusses the need for tighter regulations in the industry.

Why are there so many accidents involving cranes in the region?

The market is stretched and it is hard to find enough skilled men to operate all the machinery.

We have created a solution. We recruit fresh engineering and technical graduates to train them in our principles on the equipment we are marketing and renting.

We think this will not only solve our problem, but a national problem; rather than recruiting experienced people, we think it is better to give an opportunity to a new graduate to try and give them expertise in this business.

This will generate a new generation which is educated, and who perform well. We now have around eight fresh engineers from different fields, of different nationalities, which are being well-trained to execute their duties.

Do you think some contractors are allowing untrained workers to operate machinery?

Yes, definitely. I think it is a catastrophe that so many companies don't invest in training.

They are too busy racing against time to save penalties and they are more interested in taking a bigger volume of work; sometimes bigger than their delivery capacity.

This raises many risks, particularly among training and safety. Some contractors are paying attention to safety, but the majority doesn't.

Without safety and continuous training in the construction industry, you cannot deliver something professional.

If those two factors are missed, I believe it is only the blessing of God which prevents accidents happening.

What exactly is causing the accidents - the operators or the machines themselves?

Both. You need to have the right men to service the equipment. Accidents could happen while you are servicing or as a consequence of bad servicing.

If the equipment is not serviced properly, on the operations side you could expect an accident at any moment. Unfortunately, with the lack of enforcement of the existing regulations to prevent accidents at a government or municipality level, the chance of accidents is high.

So, would you like to see more government intervention?

This is a must, because if the jobs are commercially-driven then, when you talk about commercial levels, people aren't thinking about reputation, safety, build-up of experience or well-trained manpower.

If you are thinking short-term, and unfortunately many companies are, then they are trying to get as many jobs as they can in the shortest period of time to make profits as high as possible and evade regulations.

Many of the government's requirements already exist in the construction industry's code of practice.

So the laws exist, but they're not being enforced?

The majority of the laws are there, but unfortunately some contractors are ignoring them because they know they can get away with it.

It is my wish that the government finds a method to start reviewing the regulations and brings in procedures to make sure the construction industry is operating safely.

How are you participating in the process to improve safety?

The equipment suppliers and contractors are the core players in this business.

These two, as well as those who are aware of international safety standards and government representatives, should join together and start looking at what is in the interest of the country.

We can then prepare initial drafts and start a trial implementation.

What will be the effects if this doesn't happen?

There will be many effects. Innocent people, who have nothing to do with equipment supply or construction, may be killed.

Secondly, the country's reputation will be harmed. In Dubai, we are always trying to be the premier in everything. So I think it is important to be the premier in safety.

The big companies are working long-term, but it is the smaller companies who are ignoring this.

Some of them [the small companies] don't even have a safety officer. If he does not exist who will look after this? The project manager will not have time; he is too busy in planning, cash-flow and material procurement.

This is why we need to invest in safety. It means men, equipment, market surveys and consultation.

Implementation has to be married to enforcement regulations. It is not just about writing it on paper. It also involves regular inspections.

There are people who check the labour camps, so why this can't happen on construction sites as well.

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