Concern for worker safety and working conditions in the Middle East, and especially Qatar, is currently on the world stage (Cronin, 2017). This paper aims to present and discuss many of the challenges to achieving world class safety in this area, as well as the root causes and the successes and improvements that have been achieved. The solutions are not straight forward though. The barriers to achieving world class safety in the Middle East are deeply rooted in culture and are extremely complex.
Working for the past six years in a safety leadership role, as well as being a female, I have been able to provide a unique approach and view to the situation in the Middle East and identify opportunities to overcome many cultural barriers to an injury free workplace. This paper presents information and first-hand experience I have gained working in the construction industry in the Middle East for the past six years, as well as much study and research into the complex cultural roots. As you read, it is important to remember that "culture" is not simply nationality or religion. The "culture" within the workforce and on our projects is a result of knowledge, experiences, values, attitudes, perceptions, social habits, etc.; as well as many years of conflict between countries and people.
Before addressing the safety challenges, it's important to understand what is driving the rise in development and subsequent construction in the Middle East.
The Gulf Region - or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - of the Middle East consists of Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (GCC n.d.). These are the areas surrounding the Arabian Gulf (Exhibit 1). These countries have undergone rapid economic, demographic and social changes in the past twenty years - mainly due to their oil and gas exports.