For the first time, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) commemorated International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) in Qatar by supporting the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) 2nd National OSH Conference and participating in various site-level activities to raise awareness on safety and health. More than 500 construction companies participated in these historic events under the banner of “Safety and Health of Workers First”.
As in previous years, IWMD is an occasion to remember all those workers who have unnecessarily sacrificed their lives or health for their work. However, the sadness of memory is most valuable if it inspires the improvement for the future. That is what the Safety and Health of Workers First” conference is all about.
This year’s BWI Workers’ Memorial Day is commendable in not only by having it observed in Qatar but also through a Tripartite Conference organised by the Minister of ADLSA, Dr. Issa Bin Saad al-Hafali al-Nuaimi. The event focused attention occupational health and safety on the whole country, particularly in the construction industry. An outcome of the conference is to further strengthen the social partners commitment to continue to make progress in improving working conditions aligned with international standards.
Dietmar Schaefers, BWI Deputy-President of BWI and Chair of the BWI Sports Ad Hoc Working Group spoke at the opening session of the Conference. He traced the history of BWI involvement in in Qatar and stressed that, “since 2013, there have been remarkable changes.”
Schaefers also explained some of the BWI cooperation with Qatari authorities, saying, “BWI signed an agreement with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to ensure safety and health and rights for migrant workers in Qatar in relation to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Project.”
“I can report that to date there has been eight joint safety inspections. We discussed a lot of issues around it like safety improvements, occupational health concerns, medical services and multi-lingual signage,” he added.
The success of those joint inspections by Supreme Committee and BWI is a clear sign of the value for the migrant workers. BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson, in his remarks to the conference, also recognised the vital contribution of this cooperation. He said, “BWI congratulates the Ministry of ADLSA for organising this conference on this very important day. In holding the conference on this day is a clear message to the world that the Qatar government is serious about safety and health.”
In addition, a panel session focusing on international case studies included Robert Miguel, National Health and Safety Advisor for Unite the Union of the United Kingdom and Simon Hester, former HSE inspector from the United Kingdom and a regular member of the BWI inspection-team in Qatar.
Prior to the conference representatives of BWI participated in 30-minute “tool-box” trainings on health and safety at the worksite. The sites that took conducted trainings were construction projects operated by the following companies: Al Wasail by Engineering Company for Construction & Development at Al Wasail; Al-Hassan international in Lusail; and Public Works Authority 'Ashghal' in Thamamah area.
BWI and other trade union organisations have been marking Workers’ Memorial Day throughout the world ever since it became a global day. The UN, ILO and others have joined this solemn occasion. This year, the Government of Qatar has joined other governments in organizing a safety and conference focused on putting workers first on this symbolic day to send a strong message to all companies, domestic and foreign, that they must make health and safety on the job the top priority.