August 7, 2017

Employer minimum health and safety training requirements

As many readers will be aware, health and safety obligations in the UAE are not set out in a single piece of legislation but rather in an extremely broad range of laws and regulations, at Federal and Emirate level, together with various Ministerial Decrees Guidelines and sector specific regulations. This can sometimes make it challenging for UAE employers to fully understand their health and safety obligations. This article examines some of the key occupational health and safety training requirements UAE employers should be aware of. It is not however an exhaustive list and additional training requirements may apply depending on the company's sector and location, for example.

Why should an employer train staff of health and safety requirements?

In addition to the obvious benefit of reducing health and safety incidents, there are a number of key legal reasons to provide health and safety training to staff:

1. There is a statutory obligation to do so - employers are under a statutory obligation to train staff on certain aspects of health and safety including the hazards associated with their role, first aid and fire safety. Failure to do so could result in fines or other administrative sanctions being imposed by the authorities.

2. Reduce exposure to liability – employers may be vicariously liable for acts of employees carried out in the course of employment. Often criminal liability following a workplace incident will fall to an individual employee, rather than to the company. However, a civil complaint against the company will commonly follow such a criminal conviction, relying on the vicarious liability provisions of the UAE Civil Code. In such cases, it is critical that the employer can evidence that it discharged its health and safety obligations by, amongst other things, ensuring that staff are properly trained on health and safety standards.

3. Compensation under the UAE Labour Law - under the UAE Labour Law, compensation is payable to employees where they sustain an injury in the workplace, save in certain circumstances, including where the employee failed to follow clearly displayed safety instructions.

What form should the training take?

Employee training can take a variety of forms, from written guidance through to oral training sessions and workshops. When training is provided orally, a written record of this should be documented and, preferably, signed by the relevant employee. Employees' training records should be kept up to date with descriptions of the training undertaken and the date of the training.

In relation to written training, consideration should be given to the  appropriate format and language in light of the language skills and literacy levels of the relevant employees. As a minimum, the UAE Labour Law requires that health and safety instructions are displayed in Arabic and any other language(s) understood by employees. Pictorial rather than textual training should be considered for staff with low levels of literacy. 

What should the training cover?

As a minimum, health and safety training should cover the following:

Dangers and preventative measures

•Inform employees, at the time of recruitment, of any dangers associated with the role and preventative measures that must be taken to avoid or reduce the risk of such dangers.
•Display clear instructions (in Arabic and in another language understood by the employee, if necessary) in a prominent position indicating the measures to be taken to prevent fire and how to protect against hazards.
•Notify employees of how to handle any workplace accidents.

First aid training

•The UAE Labour Law requires that employers provide at least one readily accessible first aid kit per 100 employees, located in a prominent place and allocated to a person trained in giving first aid.
•An adequate number of employees should be provided with first aid training to accommodate for when other first aiders are absent from work.
•Records must be kept confirming employees' attendance at first aid training courses.
•Refresher first aid courses must be undertaken and documented over the course of the allocated employee's employment.
•All employees should be made aware of which employees are trained in first aid so that they know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
•When a trained first aider leaves the employer's employment, they must be promptly replaced.

Fire safety training

•Display signs on how to prevent fire or its causes, particularly in potentially flammable areas of the workplace. Such signs should also confirm the location of the fire exits.
•Ensure a sufficient number of workers are trained to use fire-extinguishing equipment.
•A prescribed percentage of employees (depending on the employer's classification) must attend training on the basics of preventive safety and firefighting.