Pledge to cut worksite deaths and injuries in the UAE

Construction accidents are the country’s second-most common cause of emergency cases after road trauma.

The number of accidental deaths and injuries on the country’s building sites is second only to those from road accidents.  Jaime Puebla / The National

ABU DHABI // A world leader in workplace health and safety has vowed to reduce the number of people killed or injured in falls on the country’s building sites.

Construction accidents are the country’s second-most common cause of emergency cases after road trauma.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (Iosh) has opened a branch in Abu Dhabi and plans, with support from authorities, to educate workers and employers on avoiding accidents.

“In the UAE, we are fortunate to be working in an environment with an ever-growing skyline, but extensive developments bring occupational health and safety challenges,” said Maisaa Nasrallah, chairwoman of the branch.

“The UAE recognises opportunities to improve the situation. It is about making sure, as we aim for the best and the biggest, this does not undermine safety.”

Iosh, a registered charity, will make spot checks at worksites, hold educational talks and conduct workshops for health and safety practitioners.

It will be supported by the Ministry of Labour and Abu Dhabi Emirate Environment, Health and Safety Management System. It also plans to support the ministry in developing standards.

Ms Nasrallah, 28, said the aim was to improve workplaces and get more women working in the sector.

“The Government has put forward the infrastructure but it is about spreading that message of health and safety,” she said.

“We want to make sure that employers are following their duty of care and that employees know their rights.”

Speaking at Iosh’s fifth annual Middle East conference, where experts gathered to tackle issues surrounding work-related deaths, injuries and illness, institution president Tim Briggs said safety was paramount in any workplace.

Mr Briggs said the UAE must ensure that those delivering the message of occupational safety were properly trained.

“There are some big construction projects here,” he said, as he inaugurated the UAE branch yesterday.

“If companies employ people to advise on health and safety and they have not been properly qualified, then things are going to happen that are going to hurt people.”

There are no uniform figures on the number of lives lost and injuries in the workplace each year across the Emirates.

Last month, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi said the number of workers killed in falls or being struck by falling objects was reduced by a third last year from 2012.

But emergency doctors say there are still far too many injuries on work sites.

The prevalence of these injuries is worrying, said Mr Briggs, 57, a British safety expert.

“But this is where Iosh can help,” he said. “Our members have loads of experience in putting proactive measures in place to prevent accidents.”

Common accidents in the workplace are often the most avoidable, Mr Briggs said.

“It is normally people being untidy and tripping over and that is something that can be avoided,” he said.

Employees killed in falls or being struck by falling objects at work make up the two most common worksite injuries.

“Working at height is extremely dangerous but it can be made safe if people follow simple safety rules and take simple steps to make sure safety rules are followed,” said Mr Briggs.

“The long-term vision is to make the UAE a benchmark for safety.”

jbell@thenational.ae