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The UAE, where health and safety takes a back seat

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

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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  1. Peter Tanczos on February 9, 2011 5:05 pm

    Your comments about “elfansafetygawnmad” in the UK would be quite an indictment, if they were true. There is a persistent long term media campaign running these kind of stories which on further investigation turn out to be either made up or “spun”. Last year Richard Littlejohn published 75 HSGM stories of which 70% were found to be either complete fabrications or unable to be verified. Stepladders are not banned, in fact they’re ideal equipment for short term tasks such as changing lightbulbs (unless the lightbulbs are 3m+ high and there are no supporting walls to rest on). Councils cannot specify what equipment to use on a job, merely that the method & equipment used is safe.
    Unfortunately, a number of employers (and it would appear, the current government) would prefer to see a UK more aligned with UAE working practices.

  2. ZeTallGerman on February 21, 2011 12:26 pm

    The UAE is far behind health & safety standards of most Western countries, not just the UK. How about the loud level of music played in the country’s night clubs? I’m not being funny, but I’ve started wearing ear plugs as Dubai’s clubs are well exceeding any “healthy” noise levels.


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