Will Big Brother help workers bounce back?

Construction sites dominate the pages of this particular issue. We have stories about possible fines for contractors responsible for the projects being built on them, statistics unveiling the number of accidents taking place on them, and revelations about the conditions that the labourers who toil away on them have had to endure as a result of a month’s worth of power cuts.

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By  Tim Wood Published  June 10, 2006

|~||~||~|Construction sites dominate the pages of this particular issue. We have stories about possible fines for contractors responsible for the projects being built on them, statistics unveiling the number of accidents taking place on them, and revelations about the conditions that the labourers who toil away on them have had to endure as a result of a month’s worth of power cuts. All grim reading, if we are particularly honest. A pretty picture of life on the workface it certainly is not. However, a new initiative from the Ministry of Labour is all set to make construction sites happier places. The ministry is ready to introduce “satellite imagery equipment” to monitor construction projects across the UAE. Put in simple speak; all you workers out there, Big Brother will soon be watching your every move. The ministry claims that the initiative, which has been under discussion for the past year, will “fill a big gap” in the needs of the under-staffed inspection department, which has just 20 inspectors responsible for monitoring around 70,000 building sites and labour accommodation premises — and that is just in Abu Dhabi. Every labourer is set to benefit as any instance of malpractice and ill treatment will be picked up on immediately. And most importantly, it will help reduce accidents on site, which, as Construction Week also reveals this week, could reach an all-time high this year if current trends continue. Having said that, so would the installation of speed humps on site to prevent plant from moving too fast, or giant inflatables below all ladders so any fallers can immediately bounce back up and continue working as normal, or rubber tools, so when dropped on someone, the unfortunate recipient of a flying hammer isn’t packed off to hospital. Before the letters start flooding in from readers suggesting that I am mocking a positive move by the ministry, that was all written with my tongue firmly planted inside my cheek. On a serious note, the move should be roundly applauded. In 2005, 39 people died on site, the year before that the figure was 23, while in 2003 some 20 were killed — that’s 82 workers who did not return home to their families. Yes, the fact that Big Brother could be watching in future gives an uncomfortable feeling. After all, no-one wants their every move scrutinised? But if it cuts accidents, or more importantly prevents deaths on site, it is surely a small price to pay.||**||

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