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Safety Matters

The evolution of safety culture within the GCC

If we want to evolve human factors, and evolve system safety, we should be constantly mindful of how we monitor safety so as to become better aware of our models of risk and their relevance. This has starting taking place within the MENA region, especially the GCC countries.

The observer can realise that further steps have been taken by local governments and organisations towards improving and enhancing the safety policies and regulations especially in the GCC. Safety is a matter that concerns everyone, and all related parties are moving forward to advance in implementing and fostering safety within their communities and businesses.

New regulations have been articulated and implemented, related to hazards such as dehydrating due to working under the direct sun during the hot seasons and also the fire hazards especially in the UAE and other GCC countries. Many organisations have started establishing departments and business units that specialise in Occupational Health and Safety. Executives comes to realise that safety in the workplace matters and it is a concern for all. They realise how safety is a vital factor that, if missed from the workplace, may affect the business’ bottom line and reduce profitability. All come to know that reducing injuries and accidents within the workplace is a very important factor in being productive and competitive in the marketplace.

Most of the organisations within the GCC countries are now ISO certified and have well organised HSEQ units that take care of setting robust procedures and policies for health and safety, environment and quality standards within the organisation. Such departments and business units start to influence the buying decisions related to the PPE required for the workplace. They start having valuable inputs in articulating the proper specifications and specifying the proper and reputed brands and vendors that are dealing with genuine products.

On seeing that, most of the organisation starts to articulate its own safety and quality statements, indicating how important safety becomes to the businesses executives and giving a good impression of how the awareness of safety among businesses is evolving and spreading.

From there, business executives and governments start to realise that to be truly successful they must take personal responsibility for the safety of all, both at work and at home. Company-wide, multi-level knowledge develops in terms of the importance of wearing proper protection, performing safety assessments and continually improving protocol and procedures. They start to recognise and correct potential hazards when something is not right. Many organisations start insisting that to speak up and fully listen are vital behaviours and that everyone has the authority and obligation to stop work if they believe it is not safe.

Senior management is now engaged in safety, to the point that safety is included as part of most companies' mission statements. They start to believe that it should be listed as one of the core values and it's measured as one of the company's critical success factors. Senior management start communicating how they value safety and start listing it first on their agendas, talking about it at every chance they get and including it in their performance incentive systems. More than ever they now ‘walk the walk’ themselves by setting a good example. Senior management has realised that its involvement is critical, as it sets the expectations for how all levels of management are to behave.

I can say that safety, nowadays, is starting to become a culture rather than a simple safety programme. That culture includes changing the way safety is viewed within the organisation and having it as a core value for many organisations, whether they are international or local firms.

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Ali Sadeddin is a mechanical engineer who has been involved in the construction field for more than 20 years. Having more than 14 years of intensive exposure to procurement and operations in the construction sector, he is currently serving as Procurement Director (Head of Procurement) at Khidmah LLC, a leading company in facility and property management.