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Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

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Employers in Qatar must understand that ensuring their workers’ safety and health is a win-win situation for everyone, an international organization has said.

This not only leads to a satisfied workforce, but also a productive one – and provides a reputation boost for the companies involved, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) added.

During its annual Middle Eastern conference in Doha this week, IOSH released a five-year strategy to boost worker wellness across the world.

J. Zach Hollo

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The plan is particularly pertinent in Qatar, where construction firms have come under intense scrutiny since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Many high-profile projects in Qatar enforce strict health and safety standards.

But Amnesty International and other organizations have long documented the comparatively dismal safety record of projects that are not in the spotlight.

Biggest challenges

According to Ala’a Sukhni, the vice-chair of IOSH’s Qatar branch, the biggest challenges health and safety professionals face in the country are falls from a height, and illnesses caused by the heat and dust.

Sukhni said that there are a variety of products and solutions that can help reduce this risk, and that IOSH encourages Qatar-based companies to invest in them.

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

Several Qatar firms were convicted of manslaughter and fined last year after workers were killed on the job.

Four of the deaths were deemed to have been caused by falls due to poor signage and lighting, poor supervision and a lack of safety equipment.

Summer is near

As the weather heats up, Sukhni also offered several tips on how companies can best protect their workers from the heat and dust.

They include:

  • Setting up an air-conditioned room where workers can spend their breaks and eat their meals;
  • Making sure employees avoid working in direct sun wherever possible;
  • Supplying adequate quantities of cooled water for drinking, particularly on hot days;
  • Mandating a 15-minute break each hour during the hottest months of the year. That break must be taken in an air-conditioned environment, and workers must be encouraged to drink and eat during this break;
  • Spraying water on dusty areas to reduce swirling dust; and
  • Providing loose clothing and visors to protect workers against dust.

Richard Messenger/Flickr

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“Our officials are working hard to provide guidance on this,” Sukhni told Doha News. “It’s important that there is more awareness of the importance of these measures.”

New government guidelines

IOSH is not the only entity calling for improvements in Qatar’s approach to health and safety on construction sites.

The country’s own Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) has also recently released new guidelines designed to make workplaces safer.

The guide includes advice on things like proper fencing and signs, working hours, traffic management, the transportation of construction material, scaffolding, lights and noise levels.

It also urges developers to consider the environmental aspects of their sites, keeping in mind their footprint on nearby plants, local wildlife and public spaces.

Reputations at stake

One way to persuade more firms to take better care of their workers is to emphasize the importance of a good public image and reputation.

According to a recent IOSH survey, executives of local construction firms are aware that they are being judged by their health and safety record.

Mohamad Alodaima/Flickr

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Ninety-one percent of 250 MENA business leaders surveyed told IOSH that they believed investing in the health and safety of their workforce was essential to ensuring their business had a good reputation.

Eighty-five percent also said that their employees’ health and safety was a top priority at board level.

Promoting best practice

According to Sukhni, one of the ways best ways to tackle Qatar’s health and safety challenges is to emphasize international best practice and explain why this benefits everyone.

“We have 455 IOSH members in Qatar, and we work across all industries.” Sukhni told Doha News. “The country is ambitious about growth, so it’s important to improve health and safety at the same time. Our members play a vital role in this.”

To help them spread the word, Sukhni’s Qatar branch organizes regular site visits so that its members can see how their competitors are working to ensure the safety of their staff.

Reem Saad / Doha News

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It also focuses on the importance of training and the provision of proper equipment.

Most importantly, according to Sukhni, the aim is to prevent safety issues in the first place.

“We always try to avoid the hazard completely. But where it’s not possible, we need to reduce exposure or provide personal protective equipment as a last resort,” he said.

Thoughts?

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Qatar Airways plans to fly to some 26 new destinations in the coming year, including to the northern California city of San Francisco, the airline has announced.

Other new routes include Cardiff, UK; Utapao, Thailand; Chittagong, Bangladesh; Mykonos, Greece; Málaga, Spain; Accra, Ghana; Lisbon, Portugal; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Prague, Czech Republic; Kiev, Ukraine and Mombasa, Kenya, the airline said in a statement.

The 12 routes will all launch in 2018, and are in addition to 14 already announced destinations for 2017-2018.

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The view from Mount Taylor, Canberra

Those include Dublin, Rio de Janeiro, Canberra in Australia, Santiago in Chile and Medan in Indonesia.

Speaking to reporters at the annual Arabian Travel Market in Dubai this week, CEO Akbar Al Baker said that if the airline’s aircraft orders come in on time, all 26 new routes will begin by March 2018.

That’s the end of Qatar’s financial year.

US routes

Qatar Airways already flies nonstop from Doha to 10 US cities, including Los Angeles.

It also has plans to launch a route to Las Vegas early next year, though this has now been pushed back to the second quarter of 2018, Bloomberg reports.

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The new US destinations come despite a drop in bookings following a new electronics ban onboard planes flying directly from the Middle East to the states.

According to AP, Al Baker said the airline was not deterred by recent events, including questions about potential visa bans on certain passengers.

“Qatar Airways does not plan and will not reduce frequencies to the United States. I am sure that these uncertainties that passengers have soon could be resolved by statements from the United States’ government.”

Cardiff

While both of Qatar Airways’ Gulf competitors already fly to San Francisco, Qatar will be the first to launch a direct service to Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

The airline has not yet disclosed how many times per week it plans to fly to the city.

Michel Curi/Flickr

Cardiff Castle

However, the route should also allow Qatar Airways to reach new customers who have previously been unable to fly long-haul from their local airport.

According to Cardiff Airport, more than 1 million passengers travel every year from Wales to destinations that are on the Qatar Airways network, and more than 90 percent of these currently have to travel via London.

Cardiff will be the airline’s fifth current UK route, in addition to London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Thoughts?

All photos by Reem Saad

Saeed Al-Mohannadi has been a vociferous comic book reader and collector since he was a kid. But feeding that habit while growing up in his native country of Qatar was tough.

Now 26 years old, Al-Mohannadi is the founder of Qatar’s first comic book store, which soft-launched over the weekend.

Speaking to Doha News, he explained: “Doha never had a place that gave (me) my fix for comic books. So I decided (with a few friends) to create that place.”

Reem Saad / Doha News

Doha Comics

The store is located inside the Pearl-Qatar’s Qanat Quartier neighborhood, and is currently open from 4pm to 10pm daily.

Selection

On Instagram, Doha Comics describes itself as a new “pop-culture specialty store” that has a “never-ending stock of comics.”

It carries mostly trade paperbacks and Japanese comic books (manga).

But it also sells related items such as collectible action figures, artwork, accessories like keychains and mugs, posters and clothing.

“We have about 1,500 comic books on display at the moment, with hundreds more on the way,” Al-Mohannadi said.

Prices for the books start at QR40, he added.

Comic book culture

Doha Comics isn’t the first store in Qatar to carry certain types of comic books.

In 2014, the country’s first anime and manga toy shop, Hobby Chan, received a warm welcome from residents.

Chantelle D'mello

Hobby Chan

This was in part because the newlywed owners put a face on a growing local subculture of video game and anime enthusiasts.

According to Al-Mohannadi, however, his store is different in that its main focus revolves around comic books and comic book culture.

Importing issues

Like any business in Qatar that sells books, Doha Comics faces importing restrictions.

Qatar’s culture ministry has the final say on which publications can enter and be sold in the country.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Doha Comics

It has in the past rejected content dubbed questionable to the nation’s traditions and values.

Arduous regulations are one reason why the store cannot offer the latest weekly releases of comic books in a timely fashion, Al-Mohannadi said.

He added:

“We do appreciate the efforts and challenges being faced by local authorities to balance conserving the fabric of local culture whilst trying to edge forward with the vision put in place for the future – though the process can sometimes feel extensive.”

How ministry rules will affect the store’s business in the future remains to be seen.

Growing Pearl

The comic book store is one of two dozen new restaurants and shops that have opened at the Pearl-Qatar in recent months.

Last week, island operator UDC announced that some 300 retailers are now operating on the Pearl.

It added that over 10 million vehicles have visited the island over the past year.

UDC

The Pearl-Qatar

The increase comes despite the fact that there’s only one road linking the Pearl to the rest of Doha, which can make it difficult for motorists to leave during peak traffic times.

Residents have previously expressed concerns about the safety and security implications of having just one exit point.

Developers pledged last fall to look into building a new access road to get on and off the island.

But UDC made no mention of this in its latest statement, and did not respond to requests for an update on the subject.

Thoughts?