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Sun 1 Oct 2006 12:00 AM

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Toolbox talk

It’s easy to get the impression that safety is an unknown concept in Dubai.

It’s easy to get the impression that safety is an unknown concept in Dubai.

Simply driving to work can feel like you’re taking part in an extreme sport.

The last-minute lane changing, tailgating and seeming inability to use indicators combine to make Dubai’s roads resemble an episode of Wacky Races.

Only this morning, the taxi driver taking me to a meeting decided that it was acceptable to reverse along the Garhoud Bridge sliproad into the face of three lanes of oncoming traffic!

But if you do make it to work in one piece, you should be able to feel that your health and safety are assured there.

For those in the construction industry arriving from the UK, their first day on site may come as a shock.

And not just because of the scale of operations, but by the dress code and behaviour of some.

Some differences are blatant by their absence.

The first hint of something amiss comes as you approach a project.

Just where are the site notice boards?

Sure, giant hoardings announcing the project can be seen from miles away in many cases.

These include everything from an artist’s impression of the final building and the construction team to cityscape lighting in the case of Dubai Lagoon.

But down at site level there seems to be something lacking.

Before going onto a construction site in the UK there are several health and safety hoops to jump through.

At all entry points, site boards list the minimum requirements of safety boots, hardhats, high-visibility jackets and, more often, goggles and hearing guards.

Turn up without a pair of British Standards-approved steel toe-capped boots and you may as well not have left home as you certainly won’t be getting past the front gate.

But in Dubai visitors are welcomed onto some sites wearing no more than a pair of sandals or flip-flops.

Only a few mm of rubber between the soles of their feet and the debris of a site yard, they can be witnessed happily trudging across site yards seemingly oblivious to the potential dangers.

Some efforts towards safety measures are evident, with the wearing of hardhats seeming to be fairly popular.

But even this is not 100% enforced and plenty of operatives can be seen on Dubai sites carrying out their daily tasks without any head protection.

Such laxness should horrify and terrify anyone that arrives to work on the city’s sites.

If the basics of health and safety are not being dealt with at a workwear level, what about the larger issues?

The biggest cause of construction deaths in Dubai last year was falls from height.

If fatalities such as these and all others are to be eradicated, everyone employed in construction must play their part.

Health and safety laws that meet international standards are already in place.

It is time for firms to act and make sure construction doesn’t become the Dick Dastardly of safety.

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