Construction Week Newsletter 7th August 2005

International contractors should ensure that the standards they apply for safe working are the same in London or Paris as they are in Dubai or Doha.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  August 7, 2005

The shameful facts that speak volumes|~|Sean-Cronin200a.jpg|~|Sean Cronin, Editor|~|Our investigation into the mortality rate of site workers in the UAE’s construction industry does not make for pleasant reading. Neither does the article on page five that deals with suicide cases in the industry, which one leading psychiatrist blames on a combination of ‘exploitation and a shattering of hope’. There is a lot to take in at once. Firstly, we know that at least 880 construction workers lost their lives in the UAE last year, although how many deaths were caused by site accidents and how many were down to ‘natural causes’ is still far from clear. But to muddy the waters still further, even those deaths that have been recorded as ‘natural causes’ may not in fact be as ‘natural’ as they first appear. That is because the UAE-based cardiologists we have spoken to have established that heatstroke can precipitate cardiac arrest. The cardiologists have direct and first hand experience of dealing with such cases. But heatstroke is never recorded as a contributing factor. So what we still do not know is just how many heatstroke victims subsequently have heart attacks. Beyond this black hole in the statistics, it is clear that the extremely tough working conditions endured by many migrant construction workers can contribute to a whole range of health problems. Many contractors operating in the UAE and the wider GCC region will work under much more stringent health and safety regimes in their domestic markets than exist in this part of the world. But that should not mean that the processes which ensure comparatively safe sites in Europe are not abandoned when companies win contracts in countries with a more laissez-faire approach to site safety. Corporate social responsibility is not a country-specific thing. And international contractors should ensure that the standards they apply for safe working are the same in London or Paris as they are in Dubai or Doha. Of course, it is not just about health and safety method statements and personal protective equipment. The use of sub-contracted labour supplied by dodgy agents who pay their workers only a fraction of the amount they receive from their employers is despicable. Anyone who needs reminding of the facts need only read Arumugam Venketesan’s suicide note, which really says all that needs to be said. ||**||

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