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Mohamed Amer, regional director of Operations at ICC MENA. (Image source: ICC MENA)

HSE

On 22 May, the International Code Council (ICC) marked the first-ever International Building Safety Day.

The organisation stated that this day is dedicated to promoting and celebrating building safety and the benefits it provides to our communities' health and welfare. It also recognises the significant progress made in ensuring the safety of our built environment, while acknowledging the challenges that remain and planning for the future.

Middle East's commitment to building safety

The Middle East has seen a rapid construction boom in recent years, transforming skylines and infrastructure across the region. Alongside this growth, a focus on building safety has emerged as a critical priority. Many countries have adopted stricter building codes, established dedicated building safety authorities, and invested in fire and structural safety provisions and awareness campaigns.

Dubai has established itself as a frontrunner in building safety with its comprehensive Dubai Building Code (DBC), referencing international standards from the ICC. The DBC is regularly updated to ensure its regulations reflect the latest advancements in construction practices and safety protocols.

Saudi Arabia is also making significant strides in building safety, utilising the I-Codes as the base of their codes. This approach ensures safety while adapting regulations to specific needs, upholding global safety benchmarks.

Oman is poised to join the ranks of regional safety leaders. Partnering with the ICC, Oman is developing a set of six building codes expected to be finalised by early 2026. These codes will be based on the latest international codes (I-Codes), ensuring Oman's building industry adheres to the most up-to-date safety practices. The focus on sustainability and technology integration further strengthens Oman’s commitment to a safe and future-proof construction sector.

These initiatives by Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Oman demonstrate a collective commitment to building safety in the Middle East. Improved regulations and enforcement have led to a decrease in construction-related accidents and building collapses. Advancements in fire safety measures, particularly in high-rise buildings, have also contributed to a safer living and working environment.

Building resilience for the future

The Middle East faces unique challenges in building safety due to extreme temperatures, high levels of sun exposure, and frequent sandstorms. Daily temperature fluctuations can significantly impact the storage and lifespan of building materials, such as adhesives, paints, and sealants. Highly heat-resistant materials are essential to reduce heat gain and loss. Additionally, all pipes—water, gas, sewage—require increased insulation to counter extreme temperature variations, preventing warping or leaks.

To address these challenges, countries in the Middle East are increasingly turning to the International Code Council (ICC) suite of building safety solutions. This family of solutions provides a rigorous and internationally recognised system for evaluating building products and materials, ensuring they meet the highest safety standards and are suitable for the region's specific climate and conditions. By utilising these services, countries can create a safer built environment while promoting innovation and the use of advanced building technologies.

The continued focus on building safety, combined with the adoption of advanced technologies and collaborative efforts, will help the Middle East create a more resilient and secure built environment. Embracing innovation and maintaining rigorous safety standards will ensure that the region's construction boom leads to sustainable and safe development for the future.

"The future of building safety in the Middle East lies in innovation and collaboration," said Mohamed Amer, regional director of Operations at ICC MENA. "Embracing new construction techniques and materials can improve the resilience and sustainability of buildings. Exploring new methods of construction like offsite construction and 3D concrete printing can significantly contribute to reduction in material waste, enhanced construction quality, more controlled and more accessible work environments, and optimised project timelines.”

Building codes need to evolve to incorporate sustainable construction practices, ensuring long-term environmental benefits alongside safety considerations. Continued public awareness campaigns and educational programs can empower individuals to identify and report safety hazards. Additionally, fostering knowledge-sharing between government agencies, construction professionals, and the public is key to achieving a collective focus on safety.

International Building Safety Day is a reminder that our built environment plays a vital role in our lives. By celebrating past achievements, acknowledging present challenges, and embracing innovation and sustainability practices, we can build a safer, more resilient future for the Middle East."

Currently, the UK has one gigafactory, AESC UK in Sunderland, which supplies batteries for Nissan’s electric vehicles. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Industrial

Matthew Parr from Hughes Safety Showers discusses with SHP Online the growing importance of emergency safety showers and eye/face washes in gigafactories, as their prevalence increases across Europe.

As governments and policymakers recognise the urgency of prioritising sustainability, the shift towards electric vehicles is becoming more apparent in Europe.

In March 2023, the European Parliament approved new legislation to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035. While the legislation awaits approval from the European Council, the momentum towards embracing all-electric vehicles is undeniably accelerating.

Unit sales of new electric vehicles in Europe are expected to reach 3.44 million by 2028, with an additional 1.4 million plug-in hybrid vehicles. As demand for electric vehicles grows, so does the need for lithium-ion batteries.

Currently, the UK has one gigafactory, AESC UK in Sunderland, which supplies batteries for Nissan’s electric vehicles. Across Europe, the number of gigafactories is expected to increase, with Germany, Hungary, and France projected to host 19 of them.

Given the nature of materials and processes involved, gigafactories are associated with significant risks. Understanding and addressing these risks is essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of the growing workforce in this sector.

Manufacturing risks

Lithium-ion batteries are made up of four primary components: cathode, anode, separator, and electrolyte. Improper handling, overcharging, short-circuiting, or overheating of these batteries can lead to significant dangers such as expansion, splintering, and leakage, which pose serious workplace hazards.

While automation in the manufacturing process and the correct use of PPE can help protect workers from hazardous materials, employers must remain vigilant. If electrolytes leak or spill from a battery, they can react with air and water to form hydrofluoric acid.

What are the effects of a hydrofluoric acid burn?

Abbas Kanani MRPharmS, superintendent pharmacist at Chemist Click, explained the dangers hydrofluoric acid poses when it comes into contact with the body.

He said, “Hydrofluoric acid is one of the strongest acids that causes corrosive burns and can also involve underlying bone. It is highly toxic and damaging. Contact with high-concentration products can be fatal.”

When a person first comes into contact with hydrofluoric acid, they’ll experience severe pain at the site of the burn. Kanani elaborated stating, “There may be swelling, slow-healing burns, blisters or a rash present and pain can occur even if there are no visible burns.”

The lasting damage can be significant too, with Kanani adding, “Skin damage can take a long time to heal and can result in severe scarring. Eye exposure can cause permanent blindness or total destruction of the eye.”

In the event of accidental contact with hydrochloric acid, a thorough decontamination as quickly as possible for at least 15 minutes is essential to remove any residual chemical.

The new uvex phynomic cut glove range is manufactured in Germany using 3D hand ‘formas’ to mimic the contours of the hand. (Image source: uvex)

PPE

uvex has announced the launch of new safety eyewear and safety gloves, which it will be showcasing at the Health and Safety Event in Birmingham, UK from 30 April-2 May

16 memorandums of understanding and agreements were signed to promote cooperation in occupational safety and health. (Image source: Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development)

Training

The sixth edition of the Saudi International Conference for Occupational Safety and Health, titled "Exploring the Horizon", concluded in Riyadh from 5-7 May.

Organised by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health and under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Eng. Ahmed Sulaiman Al Rajhi, the event featured participation from various officials, specialists, and local and international experts.

The conference facilitated the exchange of expertise and best practices in the occupational safety and health sector. It was followed by over 100,000 people via live broadcast and attended by more than 8,000 visitors. The event included discussions on more than 15 specialised topics in dialogue sessions with over 169 speakers and offered 49 training workshops with accredited certificates.

Main topics

Key highlights included discussions on the Kingdom's efforts and experiences in occupational safety and health, aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 objectives. The accompanying exhibition showcased the history and development of occupational safety and health, highlighting the Council's roles in enhancing the attractiveness, safety, and sustainability of the Saudi labour market.

During the opening ceremony, the official website of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health was inaugurated, offering services such as training programmes for accident investigators, report documentation, and awareness training.

The conference was supported by key partners and sponsors, including the General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI), Saudi Aramco, King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), and Saudi Aramco Nabors Drilling (SANAD). The exhibition featured 15 partners and sponsors, and 25 exhibitors from local and international entities, showcasing innovative models, advanced technologies, and modern practices for enhancing workplace safety and sustainability.

Additionally, 16 memorandums of understanding and agreements were signed to promote cooperation in occupational safety and health. Representatives from the International Labour Organization, the Executive Office of the Council of Ministers of Labour in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and various ministries from Gulf countries and other regions participated in bilateral meetings aimed at improving occupational safety and health standards.

Recommendations

The conference concluded with recommendations to share the Kingdom's experience in developing the occupational safety and health system internationally, especially in digital transformation, and to cooperate with international organisations to exchange knowledge and develop incentives for compliance with safety requirements. Further recommendations included establishing a Gulf committee or body for occupational safety and health and developing legislation to ensure small and medium enterprises comply with occupational safety and health standards.

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