Site worker death toll exceeds 800

2004 fatality figures for construction workers employed in the UAE revealed

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  August 7, 2005

The death toll of foreign construction workers in the UAE is today revealed for the first time. A Construction Week investigation has found that at least 880 construction workers lost their lives last year. The statistics raise serious questions about health and safety standards within the local industry. They have also drawn criticism from local welfare groups and international trade unions. According to figures compiled by the Indian Consulate based in Dubai, 292 people employed by construction companies in Dubai and the Northern Emirates lost their lives last year. Sources within the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi also estimate that around 168 Indian nationals employed by construction companies in the UAE capital also died. The cause of death is not given in the figures. But K Kumar of the Indian Community Welfare Committee estimates that up to 30% of the deaths are related to site accidents. Infectious illnesses such as tuberculosis have also become a serious problem among migrant site workers. And local doctors believe the harsh conditions experienced by construction workers in the UAE has a massively detrimental imapct on their health. Indian expatriate workers make up the largest single group among industry casualties, but other nationalities represented in the industry’s foreign labour force also suffer from a high mortality rate. According to Mujtaba Riz-wan, the first secretary of labour at the Consulate of Bangladesh: “There have been about 225 deaths for 2004 and of these about 20% are from the construction sector.” Although the embassy and consultate of Pakistan did not supply accurate figures for construction industry deaths, around 750 Pakistani nationals died in the UAE last year, and insiders estimated that up to half of these were accounted for by people working in the construction industry. Vicente Caabe, labour consul at the Philippines Consulate, said that while there were no construction industry casualties in 2004, he suspected that many accidents were not reported to the consulate. He said: “There have been two serious accidents, but no deaths have been reported to the ministry. “However, there are many cases that are not reported to the consulate.” The Ministry of Health was unavailable for comment on the industry mortality figures.

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