The municipality has strengthened monitoring and inspections of work sites.

Authorities in Sharjah and Ajman have raised concerns about the rising deaths and injuries among workers at their worksites. Causes of these incidents include falling from high-rise buildings, electrocution, falling of objects on workers, scaffolding faults, inhalation of poisonous gases and chemical materials.

An official at the Sharjah Municipality said the municipality carries out continuous inspections at the work sites to make sure companies are implementing safety regulations to protect workers. “Companies should take strict measures to ensure the safety of their cranes and other building equipment to avoid any accidents,” he said.

The municipality organised several meetings with contracting companies to ensure the safety of cranes, external elevators, and all other equipment and to install protection walls at the site and ensure workers are equipped with all safety tools to prevent injuries or death at work site.

Officials at Khalifa Hospital and Al Qasimi Hospital said there are no exact statistics of the emergency cases received, but they receive at least four to 10 workers every week for minor and major injuries at work sites. To reduce such cases which mostly occurred due to the negligence of companies as they fail to ensure a safe work environment, the municipalities, police departments and other authorities concerned have taken stringent regulations.

An official at Al Humaidiya Contracting Company said the workers must feel safe at the workplace to provide the best quality of production. “Our company has a safety department that comprises of safety engineers and assistants to ensure the safety of equipment used in construction and also the safety of our workers. The engineers have been deployed in sites to ensure that workers wear the safety shoes, gloves, helmet and well trained to use equipment safely.”

Ajman initiative

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Khalifa Abdullah Al Falasi, director of building section at the Ajman Municipality, said the municipality had recently issued fines for 683 companies that violated safety regulations at construction sites. “The violations mostly include failing to follow the safety and security standards to ensure a safe environment at workplaces. There were violations such as failure to obtain construction permits, non-compliance with technical specifications of the building, in addition to violations of non-installation of temporary fences around the construction sites,” he said.

“Safety of workers as well as others present at a construction site is the responsibility of the corresponding company. The municipality would not tolerate any companies who expose the life of its workers to dangers.”

Al Falasi pointed out that the municipality has strengthened monitoring and inspections of work sites.

“The municipality recently issued a guide that included security and safety regulations, an explanation of the duties of management to implement safety system and conditions for workers and public safety at work sites. It also included the description of safety tools such as helmet, gloves, shoes the must be used by workers at various types of work sites.”

He urged the companies to meet the requirements of safety in accordance with the highest international standards.

Police efforts

Police authorities in both emirates are working with the entities concerned to reduce incidents which cost workers’ lives or permanent injuries due to the negligence of the companies.

A criminal investigation officer at the Sharjah Police said they carried out a number of investigations related to death or serious injuries at construction sites during the last two years. “Investigations reveal that companies failed to provide workers with safety tools such as safety shoes, helmet, and others. They also failed to ensure the safety of equipment such as crane or scaffolding used in construction sites,” said the official.

The police are planning intensified awareness campaigns in coordination with authorities concerned to reduce fatal accidents at work sites.

Workers get justice

Anjan K, a workshop employee, said his colleague lost a hand when the doctor decided to amputate it after he was injured at the workplace.

“The supervisors wanted to us to tell the police misleading information to get away with responsibilities, but we told the truth and our colleague got treated and was sent back home in Kerala. The company paid all the compensation, cost of the hospital and a travel ticket.”

Another worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said his colleague fell from a faulty crane, which was never inspected and had issues.

“The supervisor tried to avoid the issue and forced the worker to complete the job. They threatened to terminate us if we told the investigators from the municipality and the police about the truth.

“However, the police found out the crane was not fit for use. We told the supervisor that if the company terminates us for telling the truth, we will go to the labour office to lodge a complaint against the company. The supervisor was terminated due to negligence and failure to ensure safety at the site. The company paid a hefty fine, compensation for the families of the workers and cost of the repatriation of the bodies.”

Know the law

If a worker is injured or becomes ill during work, the employer shall immediately notify the police and the Ministry of Labour and provide the worker’s name, age, occupation, address, nationality, and a brief description of the accident and its circumstances, said Legal Consultant Hassan Elhais from Al Rowad Advocates.

He said the police will investigate, question witnesses including the employer and the injured worker if his condition permits. All questioning should be on record and must indicate whether the incident happened as a result of inadequate safety measures or it was committed intentionally or as a result of gross misconduct by the worker.

If investigations conclude that the employer was responsible for the accident by failing to provide the safety measures he must pay for the treatment expenses in addition to the worker’s salary during the treatment period. “Articles from 142 to 153 from Labour Law number 8/1980 details the compensation amounts to pay for injured workers according to the injury rates calculated by a medical committee, and if a complete permanent disability happened, the worker is entitled to a compensation equal to that paid in cases of death,” said Elhais.

The injured worker shall not be entitled to compensation for injury or disability if the investigation proves that the act was deliberate with the intention of committing suicide, obtaining compensation or sick leave or if the worker was found to be under the influence of alcohol.