• Middle East one of the worst regions for health and safety
  • Report praises the UAE’s efforts
  • Qatar and Saudi Arabia lag behind

The Middle East is among the worst countries in the world for health and safety measures, according to a report released by Dutch consultant Arcadis.

The report, which looks at the culture of health and safety by region, claims that “the greatest barrier to creating a positive health and safety culture in the Middle East is its transient workforce.”

“Many of the workers involved are unskilled or semi-skilled expatriates from less developed Asian countries so language, education, literacy culture and inherent health and safety values create further challenges to building and maintaining a health and safety culture.”

The report is made up of a series of surveys completed by health and safety professional from five regions.

It goes on to praise UAE’s efforts in making health and safety central to the corporate culture of its major cities. It says Abu Dhabi’s Environment Health and Safety Management System Framework and Dubai’s Municipality Regulations have done well to build upon existing labour laws.

And while the rest of the region falls behind, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have both been central to global scrutiny of its treatment of construction workers, the report says that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are taking steps in the right direction.

British daily The Guardian reported in 2013 that there were bad labour practices on Qatari building sites amid the mounting controversy about Fifa’s decision to appoint Qatar to organise the 2022 World Cup Finals.

Qatar has promised to reform the treatment of migrant workers, and in many cases has done so amid global pressure. The government commissioned an investigation by the international law firm DLA Piper and promised to implement recommendations listed in a report published in May 2014.

Human rights organisations, however, still accuse Qatar of dragging its feet on the reforms, saying not enough is being done to investigate the effect of working long hours in temperatures that regularly top 50C. This is a charge the Qatar government rejects.  

In March MEED reported that international human rights organisation Amnesty International said the situation is Qatar is mixed and there are examples of good practices as well as bad ones.

The number of migrant workers living in Qatar is now estimated to be up to 1 million. About 140,000 new migrant labour licences have been issued since the start of the year and some forecast the number of migrant workers in Qatar will rise to more than 2 million by the end of the decade.

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