Eye injuries on the rise as UAE labourers skip safety goggles

Local report claims nearly three workers are treated for eye injuries every week against loss of vision.

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Labourers in Abu Dhabi are reportedly suffering severe eye injuries due to unhealthy on-site practices.

A report by local daily The National says health experts have found construction labourers usually suffer ‘horrific’ injuries such as ‘nails embedded in the socket, chemical burns to the retina and hooks in the eye’ because they do not wear safety goggles.

“It happens a lot,” said Dr Abu Haleeqa, a surgeon who, as per the report, treats at least three labourers against vision-threatening injuries every week. “If you have workers under you, then advocate the safety of the eyes. Goggles are essential in any construction site. It is absolutely necessary.”

Decree 42, introduced in 2009 states the safety equipment that labourers, depending on their job specialty, must wear at all times. These include a harness, safety goggles, a helmet, appropriate footwear and protective gloves, adds the report.

Dr. Haleeqa explained these injuries were preventable provided goggles were worn. “A lot of the time injuries lead to blindness. We try to help them out a lot and we manage to fix a lot of cases but some cases are unfixable.

“Even a small, needle-sized injury can cause traumatic cataract or retinal damage, which can cause blindness,” he added.

The frequency of these accidents proves on-site rules are not being followed, said Dr. Haleeqa, explaining this also affects the employer. “Workers being injured is a personal tragedy but beyond this there is a loss of work,” he said.

Campaigns regarding on-site hazards, which include the distribution of material and videos in English, Arabia, Mandarin, Hindi and Urdu have also been enhanced to educate almost 800,000 labourers in Abu Dhabi, added the report.

70 safety workshops attended by over 10,000 people to educate the construction sector about Decree 42 have been conducted on building sites since 2010, said  Abdulaziz Zurub, acting deputy manager of the Health, Safety and Environment Department at Abu Dhabi Municipality.

“Frankly speaking there are some bad constructors,” said Zurub. “I can say that honestly.

“The construction site is dynamic and we can not eliminate all incidents. We can do our best. But we can not do this alone. They [constructors and developers] have to support us,” he added, as per the report.

Dr. Khaliq Khan, a general surgeon at a Dubai-based clinic said the flouting of safety rules is a ‘countrywide problem’, explaining the accidents mostly occur since the construction sector is largely made up of Asian workers who often discount the need for safety measures when compared with their western counterparts.

“They do not believe in safety until it is too late,” he said. “If you don’t avoid safety measures like goggles and safety helmets then these injuries can be prevented.”

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