Construction Week Newsletter 9th October 2004

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By  Eudore Chand Published  October 9, 2004

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

World class regulations for world class standards?

The pace at which the Gulf region and Dubai and the UAE in particular has grown in recent times is such that even under the best of circumstances things can go wrong. When you have young and growing countries, money and many projects to get through, the temptation to get on with it is almost overwhelming. In these can-do, must-do circumstances, the pace of development often outstrips the ability of all parties to govern and police the development, ensuring that buildings are built to the correct standards and in the safest possible circumstances for the workers on site. The tragedy that struck Dubai International Airport is a stark reminder that even under the best circumstances things can go awfully wrong. A 20 metre high steel reinforcement mesh collapsed on workers killing five and injuring 12 others. In terms of scale, the accident may have involved a small part of the overall US $4.1 billion expansion and upgrade programme. It may not even delay the overall project. To get a better perspective, it is true that anywhere from 5000 to 8000 people are working at the airport expansion on a daily basis. With this kind of activity, it may even be probable that an accident was “bound” to happen at some point. All justification fails in the face of the fact that five human beings lost their lives and over a dozen were injured. Construction Week has consistently called for better safety standards at construction sites and better and more effective regulations to control the workings of the construction industry. Following the death of eight workers and serious injury to three others at a site in Sharjah we asked in Issue 21 what can be done to avoid fatalities at construction sites? Just before the Sharjah tragedy, a crane operator died in Abu Dhabi, when his crane collapsed on the busy Corniche Street. That road users were not killed or injured by the falling crane was indeed fortunate. Prior to that, in Issue 13, we had reminded authorities that safety is paramount at work sites. This had followed the collapse of a roof in Al Dhaid, which had killed six construction workers and seriously injured one other. I know that the authorities do take safety at workplace quite seriously. I have even heard senior company officials complain of the ‘regulation raj’. I know that better companies insist on proper gear, follow HSE norms and put up highly visible safety notices all over their sites. Despite this accidents happen. That is a reality too. And when they do the accident must be very thoroughly, professionally, and independently investigated. The findings should be carefully evaluated and made public. Conclusions should be scientifically drawn and regulations need to be fine-tuned or introduced to cut the incidence of that particular type of accident. There is also a large body of experience in the developed world: the region needs to use. Government officials often point to the fact that there are safety regulations already in place ( e.g. the UAE’s highway code); but there is no doubt that they are not often enforced (e.g. UAE’s highway code!) You only have to take a drive around some of the construction sites in Dubai to see scaffolding that would not pass muster in much of the world (and experience the driving). Why is it permitted? The UAE and Dubai have ambitions to be world-class. The country needs to have world-class standards, world-class regulations and best practices to be able to be counted amongst the best. And government needs to have the desire, resources and skills to enforce those standards.||**||

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