Site safety falls off the agenda

The most common type of letter we receive from readers relates to the use of images in the magazine that depict poor site safety – particularly in relation to working at height. We have always taken the view that we should show what we see, although we can also understand why some people take offence at blatantly unsafe working practices.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  September 9, 2006

|~||~||~|The most common type of letter we receive from readers relates to the use of images in the magazine that depict poor site safety – particularly in relation to working at height. We have always taken the view that we should show what we see, although we can also understand why some people take offence at blatantly unsafe working practices.

So we enlisted the support of a top health and safety manager and decided to spend two hours driving around the sites of Dubai and Sharjah one Wednesday afternoon to see how easy it was to find at least one high-rise site that appeared to be safe. We didn’t quite manage to achieve that, however, as our findings on page five of this week’s issue illustrate.

That is not to suggest that such safe sites don’t exist – it’s just that the randomly chosen sites we visited all happened to display serious health and safety lapses – typically a lack of edge protection or fall arrest equipment, minimal personal protective equipment and suspect scaffolding.

We saw tradesmen teetering on milk crates alongside unprotected edges 10 storeys high; we saw unharnessed scaffolders balancing on single poles at similar altitudes; we saw everything that you are not supposed to see on a modern building site.

In recent months we have found ourselves reporting an increasing number of site deaths as a result of falls from height, and it is little wonder when the frightening working practices we photographed seem to be so commonplace.

Last year, 22 of the 39 construction deaths officially recorded by Dubai Municipality, were as a result of falls from height.
If more than half of the fatalities occurring on building sites here are accounted for by people falling to their deaths – this surely needs to be the focus of efforts to improve the health and safety regime on site.

We all know that building sites in the region are notoriously dangerous, and the sad truth is that for many construction workers, the phrase ‘life is cheap’ really is an accurate description of their lot.||**||

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