New ways to improve site safety aired at the first Qatar HSE and Fire Safety Conference

IMG 1260Salahedin Ellatief Moussa Ibrahim, occupational health and safety expert, Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA) (Image source: HSE Forum)Innovative methods of reducing the number of injuries and deaths from fires and accidents on construction sites were among the key topics discussed on the first day of Qatar’s inaugural HSE and Fire Safety Conference on 17 May

Nearly 100 delegates from the public and private sectors attended the launch of the two-day event at the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha, which was endorsed by Qatar Civil Defense, Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs, and the public works authority Ashghal.

Key speakers included safety experts from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA); the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is Qatar’s organising body for the Fifa World Cup 2022; and Parsons International – project managers on the development of the new city of Lusail.

Enforcing legislation

While significant improvements in applying and enforcing safety standards have been made since the country started its accelerated construction programme just over 10 years ago, companies and authorities can do more, delegates heard.

Trained inspectors from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) undertake spot checks of construction sites and labour camps, where blue-collar manual workers typically live, to ensure they comply with the country’s 2004 Labour Law.

Inspectors have the power to temporarily close violating sites until the issues are rectified. Failure to meet these requirements can result in legal action taken against the site owner, Salahedin Ellatief Moussa Ibrahim, occupational health and safety expert at the ministry, said.

“If we find violations, we give time for them to be rectified – one or two weeks, or a month. But if they are dangerous and could cause serious injuries or fatalities, we act quickly.

“We prefer the friendly way, but if a company does not want to cooperate then we use our legal procedures,” Ibrahim added, saying persistent offenders can be blacklisted by the Ministry.

Closed sites

A number of high-profile sites in Doha have previously been temporarily shut for safety lapses, including an unnamed World Cup site where scaffolding was deemed to be potentially dangerous, the National Museum of Qatar and on a Qatar Rail project developing Doha’s new Metro system.

And in an effort to collect current figures for workplace incidents, two months ago MADSLA launched an online reporting system, which is currently only available in Arabic but is expected to be developed in other languages.

Fire prevention

Fires, often caused by sub-standard electric works, are one of the biggest challenges to worksite safety in Qatar, Joao Canas, fire and emergency management consultant for Parsons International, which is working on Lusail City, said.

Citing numerous previous fires on construction sites at Lusail, at least one of which led to a worker dying, Canas said, “Fire prevention and protection plans should be in all projects, and workers’ accommodation should be included – it’s not just for the site project.”

Improving safety

A safe site, with no accidents or fatalities, is the target for all construction projects. In his 10-point roadmap to achieving this, Alan Crawford, HSE specialist at Qatar’s Supreme Committee, explained how the “broken windows” theory could help raise standards on construction sites, with managers first tackling small but important problems and engaging their workforce to help them address bigger issues.

“Empowerment is absolutely essential: people can’t be scared to speak up if there is an issue. And management has to be approachable and open to ideas from the workforce,” he added.

Other recommendations for successful change included getting senior management commitment, having clear and robust health and safety procedures, undertaking regular training, ensuring supervisors are competent and recognition and reward for good work.

The conference concludes on 18 May including sessions from Qatar Civil Defense and Ashghal, as well as a mock criminal investigation process led by leading international law firm Clyde & Co, a first for Qatar.

The event is sponsored by Evac+Chair International, TenCate, Thomas Bell-Wright, Ansell, Material Lab, Jaidah Motors & Trading, British Aluminium, Clyde & Co international law firm, Karam, and Adapt IT.

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