MUSCAT, Sept 5 – Are unconcealed liftways, open terraces, uncovered building foundation holes and unfenced construction sites characterising our construction sites? Are HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) norms given a backseat at some of the construction sites?
A random survey among many of the construction sites in the capital city, let alone the interiors, points at the burning fact that most of the HSE norms are flouted at several sites while some of the basic safety measures such as wearing safety gear while being at the site are not even looked into.
In the latest in the series, in a freak accident, a man fell off the third floor of a building under construction through the liftway crucially injuring his spinal cord and proclaimed dead upon arriving at the hospital. The incident happened in Samayil in Ad Dhakhiliyah governorate a day before the Eid holidays.
His friends said that he was strolling while talking on the phone in the middle of the night when the accident happened. The Royal Oman Police (ROP) said a case of unusual death was registered and investigation on.
Largely, most of the construction workers with small companies engaged in construction in small villages are given accommodation in the same building under construction with toilet facilities in some makeshifts or porta cabins nearby.
“This is a scenario which is practised by most of the small time construction companies whereas the bigger players can afford to transport them back and forth their accommodation”, says a construction supervisor who preferred not to be named.
“This practise can reduce cost to a great extent while the ‘time in action’ can be considerably increased thus achieving two aims with one sling”, he adds.
Oman’s Labour Law prohibits accommodating labourers within the building under construction while stipulating decent accommodation and living circumstances for the workers to boost their both physical as well as mental health.
In another incident some time ago, a worker died on the spot when the earthmover he was on digging a building foundation deviated from its path and fell into a pit. The accident was caused, according to the company sources, due to a technical snag with the machine.
In another accident last year, seven labourers were injured when a section of a concrete floor collapsed at a construction site in Bausher, behind the Modern College of Business and Science.
In Mirbat last year, a man was killed instantaneously and three injured critically when a mosque under construction collapsed following which the safety experts and authorities urged companies to step up safety measures and adhere to rules set by the government in the construction sector.
The Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA), similar incidents take place at various construction sites in the country. While 9 construction accidents were reported in 2014, 16 similar incidents took place in 2013. Recently, a man lost his life in a similar incident in Ghala when he met with an accident at the site where he was working.
The Ministry of Manpower has said that companies found violating safety standards of workers will be penalised under various sections after a spate of spate of accidents were reported at construction sites in the recent past.
“We are strictly ensuring the safety of workers at work sites and there can be no compromise. Any violations, brought to the Ministry’s attention will be duly investigated and offenders punished. Meanwhile, our inspectors do visit the sites and notify the lax, if any, in safety standards of the workers. The offenders will be subject to action”, a Manpower Ministry official told the Observer.
According to Salim al Sheidi, Registered Arbitrator and Consultant at the Well Gate, a local company says that while the small and medium companies are not fully aware of the health and safety regulations, some category 1 companies are often keeping an eye closed towards these norms.
“The construction companies in the country are divided into four categories according to their sizes.
Some of the low-grade companies, small and medium enterprises are more often than not, not aware of the stringent HSE regulations and hence they fail to fully meet with the guidelines set forth by the ministry. On the other hand, others grading high in the category are not following the HSE guidelines for want of cutting the cost but this is literally jeopardising the lives of several workers at the site.”