OSH Legality News Updates

It is impossible to ignore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry – in the UAE in particular, the construction industry is essential to the country’s economy and as a result, the UAE Government have introduced measures to protect the ‘vital’ sector, exempting it from government restrictions and allowing construction sites to remain operational throughout. In 2019, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce confirmed that the value of construction contracts awarded in the UAE was estimated at USD 48.4 billion, the highest across the GCC region.

Whereas other sectors have been forced to comply with the UAE Government’s precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus, for example, with 70% of the workplace of the private
sector being asked to work from home, the construction sector was largely exempted from the lockdown during the nationwide sterilization campaign and has remained operational throughout
the pandemic.

Construction companies have been able to continue to commute workers to and from sites, albeit at a capacity of 30% to ensure social distancing and provided that transport buses undergo frequent cleaning and sterilization with Dubai Municipality approved products.

Mandatory precautionary measures must be carried out at construction sites, which include, inter alia, wearing protective masks and gloves, measuring the temperature of workers entering the site, maintaining physical distancing and continuous sterilization of work sites. Likewise, in labor camps, there must be adequate sanitation, disinfecting measures and regular temperature checks. Where a worker is found to have a body temperature of 37.8 degrees or more, the work must be placed in isolation. In some labor accommodations, workers are required to take a shower and disinfect their clothes using the prescribed disinfectants on returning home from the site.

Construction companies are encouraged to conduct awareness sessions at labor accommodations, to ensure that workers are given adequate information about the coronavirus, how it spreads when
it can lead to and how they can protect themselves from it.

Also, the Dubai Development Authority (“DDA”) has created a digital portal to process all engineering services, so that standard physical requests such as registration and licensing, can now
be submitted electronically. Similarly, the DDA has announced that companies are now permitted to construct accommodation on site to limit the number works being required to be transported to and from the site, which conversely means that existing labor camps then can more easily adhere to social distancing guidelines.

As a result of these measures and other government stimulus packages, modest growth within the UAE’s construction industry is expected in 2021 – projected contraction is relatively mild and a
return to growth in output is expected next year.

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