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The UAE, where health and safety takes a back seat
On first arrival in Dubai, Samuel Potter rejoiced at putting health and safety madness behind him. But now he can’t help think a little would go a long way in UAE businesses…
February 9, 2011 2:30 by Samuel Potter
It’s often out of all proportion and it’s now a millstone around many business necks – I know this from people I know in the UK running their own businesses. When I came to Dubai, I was pleased to leave all that behind me. The UAE was far more practical-minded in my eyes – if things needed to be done you just did them, no filling out of risk assessments, or waiting for the ‘appropriately trained’ member of staff.
However, I now see that I’ve come from one extreme to the other. When a young boy is electrocuted to death on a beach because of an exposed wire, there is a serious problem with health and safety. When a man falls into a chemical waste dump in Fujairah and dies, three days after two children fall in (they survived but with serious burns), there is clearly a serious lack of precautions. In that last case, a father of one of the children, said: “This area specifically does not have any fences and one cannot make out that it is a waste dump area. Today [Monday] I saw there were chains put up but previously there was nothing and anyone can go in.” An official said: “There is already a small fence around the area and a guard, but some people just do not listen and want to do what they like.”
These are just a couple of high profile examples of people killed because of relaxed standards in health and safety, and there are surely many more deaths in the UAE – particularly among laborers – that go unnoticed by most of us in the safety of our modern homes and offices.
So for the first time I find myself saying: The UAE needs to do something about its health and safety: more stringent laws, more training, more enforcement. We don’t, by any means, want to go to UK lengths and tie ourselves (and our businesses) in knots. But a lot more common sense, a lot more responsibility, and a little more regulation, could probably go a long way to making all of us much safer. We need to find that sensible middle ground.
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