Abu Dhabi: With 53 lives lost in 2011, working at heights and falling objects continue to be the leading cause of death on worksites in Abu Dhabi, health officials said.
A new programme introduced on Wednesday by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad), however, aims to reduce these risks by ten per cent annually.
"With the construction industry in the UAE and the GCC region growing swiftly, working at heights has become a common requirement for many jobs.
"This risk is also present in many other sectors, like agriculture, the oil and gas industries, window cleaning and painting operations, and even at homes and offices, while changing light bulbs, for example," said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health and policy at Haad.
"The ‘Height Aware' programme launched today aims to raise awareness among business owners, employers, health and safety professionals and workers about the dangers of working at heights, and the safety measures that can be taken," she added.
According to Haad statistics, there were 71 occupational deaths in Abu Dhabi in 2011. More than 50 per cent of these were caused by falls from heights and falling objects.
"Working at heights without proper safety harnesses, or even without any safety equipment, is quite a common problem in the emirate, and indeed in the region.
"For example, many worksites use unsafe homemade ladders," said Dr Darren Joubert, senior advisor for occupational health at Haad.
The programme gives guidelines on the proper use of safety equipment, including harnesses, scaffolding and other working platforms, and also urges companies to set in place emergency rescue procedures.
Once employers and businesses sign up for the safety awareness programme on the Haad website, informational brochures and videos in various languages are available free of charge.
The Haad will also work to collect relevant information on worksite incidents from registered companies, Dr Joubert said.
While the $560,000 (Dh2.06 million) Haad campaign focuses on creating awareness and providing information, regulatory authorities for various sectors will ensure that companies follow safety regulations for work undertaken at heights, Dr Joubert told Gulf News. These regulations are included within a number of Abu Dhabi Environment, Health and Safety Management System codes, as well as under the UAE Labour Law.
"Therefore, municipalities will oversee construction processes, while other regulators like the Department of Transport and ZonesCorp will oversee companies under their authority," he added.
Construction workers across the emirate have welcomed the new campaign.
M.A.H., a 25-year-old carpenter from Bangladesh who has been working in the capital's construction sector for four years, hailed the new programme, adding that any initiative to safeguard worker health is very welcome.
"Last year, two friends of mine passed away as a result of falling from heights, leaving young children and their families back home without any source of support.
"These kind of incidents are always scary, and because there are so many risks involved in working at heights, I am especially happy to hear about this awareness campaign," he added.