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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

There are plenty of obvious differences between the UAE and the UK. The weather is the first that comes to mind. Working in this industry, the media is another thing that stands out for me (just see today’s In Pictures for an example). The differences in culture and lifestyle can also be huge, but at the same time not so far removed that I, and thousands of other Brits, feel uncomfortable.

There are a few areas, particularly in business, where the differences between the two countries are especially big. Like health and safety, for example.

In the UK, health and safety is a colossal industry all of its own. Thanks to (until recently) ever increasing layers of bureaucracy in local government, and thanks to burdensome European regulation, the UK is a place where red tape assaults you at every turn – in business, in the home, out in public. And much of this is directed at keeping people safe.

I’m not against keeping people safe – there should be laws to protect people from the reckless and dangerous actions of others. However, this has to be balanced with an understanding that life entails risk, and if you eliminate risk you probably eliminate most of the good things in life. You also make actually living life, or going out, or running a business, difficult.

British rules and regulations have made life increasingly difficult for businesses. Health and safety law is particularly stringent in the work place, but many feel it has gone too far. It was reported last week that one council now requires its contractors to use scaffolding to change light bulbs. As you can imagine, in the case of small businesses the costs of adhering to similar crazy rules can be crippling.

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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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