Four workers who fell to deaths 'will not be the last'

A safety chief warns of more construction accidents in Sharjah, saying poor equipment is to blame.

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A safety adviser to Sharjah Municipality said yesterday that poor equipment meant more accidents, such as the one that saw four men die on Wednesday after falling from a high-rise platform, were inevitable. "Take my word, it is not the first or the last accident," said Hussain Alysai, the managing director of Claymore Security and Safety Consultants. "They will have more accidents in Sharjah."

The men plunged six storeys to their deaths when the cradle on which they were working to erect a sign on the side of Ansar Mall broke in half. Mr Alysai has in the past issued safety certificates on behalf of Sharjah Municipality, allowing companies to operate cradles - the baskets used to lift construction workers up the sides of buildings. He said he had stopped taking some jobs in the emirate because of the standard of the equipment.

"Some people used to call us to give a certificate and we would find rubbish equipment. We gave up working for them because we would test their equipment and it would fail two or three times. "They didn't care about the servicing, or maintenance of their equipment." According to Mr Alysai, safety certificates are issued only after an inspector representing the municipality carries out a site visit to examine the ropes, harnesses and cradles. Authorisation certificates can only be issued by Sharjah Municipality on production of a valid safety certificate.

The manager of the mall, Hamid al Mansour, yesterday showed reporters certificates, which apparently gave permission for staff from Al Reyami Signs and Advertising Company to erect the banner. Police have yet to make any arrests. A full report is not expected until Sunday. Neither Sharjah Municipality nor Al Reyami, the men's employer, have commented. The cradle was owned by Al Binaya Construction, but rented out to V8 Advertising, which had leased the equipment to Al Reyami.

Mr Alysai said his company inspects cradles throughout the Middle East. "The least amount of calls come from Sharjah. There is a federal law ... but nobody is bothering about it in Sharjah," he said. "In Dubai and Abu Dhabi it is very tightly regulated and Ras al Khaimah is doing everything it can to increase safety standards." According to RK Kulkarni, the director of Emirates Contracting, which rents out cradles, it is illegal to rent out or hire a cradle without the proper safety certificates.

"When the cradle is erected, a third party must inspect it before it is used," he said. "If I am renting out a cradle, I have to call that party and test the cradle if it is suitable for use and it can only be used for its purpose." Brian Florance, the operations manager of Malt Techniques, which installs and manages cradles in Dubai, said cradles must be checked for a variety of things. "There are design criteria, installation criteria and safety regulations for working at heights," he said. With additional reporting by Liam Milton-McGurk.