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Serious about safety? Not serious enough
New efforts are being made to encourage UAE companies to make their workplaces safer. But Sam Potter thinks that businesses probably need a bit more than ‘encouragement.’
June 27, 2010 12:44 by Samuel Potter
This year, these stories have been supplemented by another. Four workers were killed in Sharjah after their working platform collapsed. And these men were not even working in heavy industry – they were erecting a sign at the Al Ansar Mall.
So how can these types of accidents be prevented? The first step is raising awareness, according to Firth. That means speaking to construction supervisors about accident-prevention measures such as installing safety barriers and regularly inspecting scaffolding.
But I’m not convinced that is the first step. Awareness of how to prevent injury and harm should be the second step. Before that can happen, companies need to be persuaded of the importance of doing so.
The first step, then, is respecting the lives and health of employees. The unpalatable truth is that too often companies – particularly in the construction sector – place very little value on their menial employees. Companies need to value their work force – right down to those individuals at the bottom of the ladder.
I commend any effort to encourage safety in the workplace, particularly if it is targeted at the construction industry. But I think this latest effort is just a drop in the ocean. In my opinion the UAE government should introduce the strictest possible corporate manslaughter laws and enforce them ruthlessly. If necessary, they should make highly public examples of companies to get the message across. And this should include companies with government connections – if anything, these organizations should be held to even higher standards. Given its unique political system, the UAE is well placed to put such a plan into action quickly, if it chose to do so.
Would it be challenging? Yes. Would it be expensive? Yes. But more important than those things, it would be right.
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