Thursday, June 18, 2009

Safety, what safety?

The National reports a near tragedy in Dubai Mall yesterday, when a four year old boy fell 5.5 metres down an open and unfenced manhole.

He was extremely lucky that a ladder in the hole broke his fall and he sustained only minor injuries with some facial bruising and a cut finger.

The worker was inside the hole getting safety barriers to place around it when the accident happened.

Whoa! Hold it right there.

The 'accident' didn't happen, it was caused.

Caused by the fact that the barriers were inside the hole, meaning that it had to be left unsecured while they were brought out. They should be stored outside the hole so that they could be erected around it before the cover was taken off.

Basic, basic stuff. Stupidity. Would the safety manager care to comment I wonder?

But that's not the worst information in the story.

Look at this:

In the 30 took for the ambulance to arrive at the scene – apparently it had difficulty reaching the accident spot because of height restrictions...

They built it too low for an ambulance to get in! What about the fire brigade? Must be too low for them too I imagine.

I know construction people read this blog and I'd appreciate your input.

I can't believe there are no building regulations about access for emergency services. If there are then the mall must contravene them.

If that's the case it must be closed until modifications which protect public safety are completed.

Here's The National report.


Keith said...

Safety rules are very lax here too.

Two men dug a deep hole in the pavement near me a while back to put a new pub signpost up. Then they decided it was tea-break time and went and sat in their truck munching sandwiches and drinking for about an hour, leaving the hole uncovered.

It was only a few yards from my house so I saw everything. I know it was daylight and people could see the hazard and avoid it, but what if a blind person came along, or a young kid on his big pedalling fast with his head down (as they do!).

After their tea-break they put long bolts in the hole ready for the signpost and filled it with cement. Only then did they put guards around it before they drove away.

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

So what happens when Dubai Mall, God forbid, experiences a fire? A couple months ago I witnessed a fire in what I think was an abandoned villa. I rang 999 about 15 times in a short period. No one ever picked up.

moryarti said...

that is why there should be Resident medical/ERT crew on standby - for heaven's sake, tiny 2 and 3 star hotels have medical staff - why not the world's largest mall?

the real nick said...

Interesting one.

Ambulance access is the coda of the story which could haven become critical contributing factor, but luckily it didn’t.
As far as I am aware the clear headroom in parking garages is 2.4metres and this should have been inspected by DM before commissioning and handover / possession certification. I'd be pretty sure that the garages comply with DEWA and DM regulations on that count.
I’d be somehow less than surprised to learn that Dubai ambulances are higher than that - you know, what with the joined-up e-government we have here.
Or, that marketing banners and / or advertising signage and the like were attached at a later stage to the garage ceiling soffit. Perhaps a banner advertising the fountain display...

The accident itself seems to me (without prejudice and based on the known facts as reported in ‘The National’ article) have been caused by two factors: bad design, and lack of maintenance procedure.

The manhole seems to be an access hatch to a pump room for the fountain (I think to know which one at the mall - you can see it at garage level 2M, it's a moat like water feature around the main entrance), and not a small manhole for a sewer or a telecom trench. Such a pump room hatch should open outwards and feature in-built safety barriers which pop up as you pull up the hatches to guard the hole. These hatches are easily available and should have been specified by the consultant architect for a location in a publicly accessible area - which seems to be the case here. My conclusion No.1: unfit-for-purpose product chosen.

Secondly, if a hazard (latent risk) arises (which in the absence of strict regulations this happens often) because of bad design choices then this can be mitigated by health and safety precautions and procedures for maintenance (also known amongst consultant architects as ‘the get out clause').

The worker opening the hatch to bring out the barriers stored inside the undergound room may not have been advised of the risk he created when he opened the hatch to go down and secure the opening. There should have been a second worker securing the opening in the meantime. But the question is if the maintenance company was at all aware of the risks of leaving the hatch open even for a few seconds. These kind risks should - if not eliminated – have been addressed in the Health and Safety assessment that the lead consultant (architect) must compile for the O&M (operations and maintenance) manual which the contractor hands over to the owner and his maintenance personnel. This O&M manual is a sort of ‘Instructions for use’ for the building.

Without prejudice I surmise that it boils down to a design fault which was committed by the consultant, and which created a hazard. Secondly this hazard was failed to be picked up during H&S assessment and therefore not addressed in the O&M manual and thus became what all hazards become: risks, or accidents waiting to happen.

My two fils worth.