Our man in Dubai: Christian Hopper attends Middle East H&S forum

On 6 & 7 September 2015, the CIEH’s Christian Hopper attended the Middle East Health & Safety Forum to help promote best health and safety practice from the UK.  

Here is an account of his time spent at the event, which was held at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa in Dubai.  

Christian Hopper - head&shoulders  “On the second day of the Middle East Health & Safety Forum, I was down to speak on a panel which was looking at how to better understand the latest Health and Safety regulations and compliance issues. I’m always keen to do my homework before presenting and doubly so when I was having the privilege of speaking on behalf of CIEH in the presence of Andrea Tithecott of Al Tamimi and Dr Clarence Rodrigues of the UAE’s Petroleum Institute. Both are heavy hitters with a lot of experience in the region at both government and private sector levels, so I needed to be at my best. 

It was a really enjoyable experience being part of the panel and we went over the allotted time, which can only be a good sign. On a serious note though, managing regulatory compliance was evidently an important topic and we took many questions from the floor which helped enrich the discussions. What shined through is that there is an opportunity to improve how businesses can stay abreast of regulatory changes that might impact them, either from developing a legal register or for business to join-up to regulatory bodies to receive alerts and information.

The key point I was keen to stress during the panel discussions was that business operators and safety professionals need good training to be able to interpret how the regulations will impact them and what should their response be. This is something that the CIEH can help businesses with through a range of workplace safety training courses covering, fire, first aid and of course health and safety. These are delivered across the Middle East through the CIEH’s affiliated training centres, which are well-equipped to support businesses deal with compliance issues.

Of course compliance wasn’t the only topic being discussed at the event and there were lots more issues to debate with my fellow delegates. Over the two days we touched on many fascinating experiences and topics from the use of leading versus lagging data to drive improvements and how behavioural safety is driven by leadership to the problems of illegal accommodation in workspaces leading to fires and the challenges posed to businesses working across the Emirates and Gulf region from a lack of full harmonisation in certain regulatory areas.

There can sometimes be some reticence from delegates to ask difficult questions or present challenging professional experience at conferences but we all found that this ‘fresh’ crowd was happy to volunteer their experience and how best to overcome issues.

As this was a new conference, there was a very open and accessible networking environment and so I had a good chance to catch up with CIEH Members from the Middle East, make new acquaintances and get into further discussions with some of the key speakers, which was most helpful. Furthermore, while it was a conference in Dubai with lots of UAE connections, there were also lots of other key players to meet from across the region including delegates from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – all good contacts for CIEH to share best practices from the UK.

Christian Hopper in Dubai 

In particular, I was delighted to meet again with key figures from the Dubai Government. There was Dr Ali Salem Al Qaiwani, who only a few months ago was an honoured guest at the CIEH’s awards at the House of Lords, as well as Eng Raed Mohammed Al-Marzooqi, Head of Occupational Health and Safety section of the Dubai Municipality. We are gearing up to strategically support Al-Marzooqi and his team to improve consistency and capacity of safety and public health professionals across the Gulf region and in Dubai, so this was a great opportunity to touch-base and discuss the on-going plans.

I am a big advocate of networking and when working in this region, there really is no substitute for face-to-face time, which goes a long way to help cement the CIEH’s brand and status in the Middle East with many key stakeholders. Networking also provides the opportunity to gather valuable information that supports the CIEH’s Middle East General Manager, Jon Flatman, as well as our many clients and training centres in the region.

The CIEH also greatly benefits from attending high-profile conferences like these as it’s a great platform to drive consistency and good standards of safe workplace practices in the region.

This is an energetic region that’s constantly developing and its exciting to be a part of it. Other than spreading the word about best practice in the UK, we are in the process of developing international guidance for Health and Safety and we are also registering with relevant authorities in the UAE to enable our qualifications to be aligned with the new vocational frameworks and standards in the region.

Overall, the Middle East Health and Safety Forum was expertly run, well attended and delivered good value Health and Safety, as well as Occupational Health and Safety, knowledge exchanges. The attendance and interactivity of key regulators and government figures at both federal and local level gave it an edge and depth. At the end of the day, attending this event has greatly supported the CIEH’s understanding and awareness of key issues, needs and strategies in the region. This in-turn will inform our strategy and add value to our members, approved training centres, our corporate clients and our regulatory community relationships.”  

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