Five dead and 23 injured at Dubai airport site, forcing contractor to review staff rewards on safety performance

Senior directors and staff at contractor Laing O’Rourke are set to miss out on bonus payments after Monday’s accident at Dubai International Airport, in which five people were killed.

Laing O’Rourke, which won a £350m contract to build a third terminal at the airport in 2002, introduced a specialist bonus scheme last year linked to health and safety performance on sites.

This seems certain to be affected by the Dubai accident, which happened after steel being used to reinforce a buttress wall fell on workers below. A further 23 people were injured.

Although Laing O’Rourke refused to comment on the issue of bonus payments, a company source said: “Ray O’Rourke believes that safety is of paramount importance and has restructured company procedures to reflect this. It is certain that the payment of bonuses will be hit.”

The source added that the bonus payments are implemented on a scale basis with senior staff receiving higher rewards for good safety performance on large projects.

Ray O’Rourke has sent chairman Bernard Dempsey and health and safety director Martin Doe to the scene of the accident, where the investigation is being led solely by the Dubai police, as there is no equivalent to the HSE in Dubai.

"Ray O'Rourke believes that safety is of paramount importance”

A Laing O'Rourke source

A Laing O’Rourke statement said: “The area has been quarantined and a detailed assessment of the true extent and cause of the incident is currently under way with the investigating authorities.”

The statement added that every effort was being made to provide the maximum support for the families of those injured.

Of the injured, 19 have been released from hospital and the four remaining are understood not to be in life-threatening conditions.

Contractors expect a clampdown on safety from the United Arab Emirates’ authorities. One said: “Within a week or so we will be getting safety audits on sites to assess the safety culture.”

A source in the region said: “It’s a big blow for Laing O’Rourke. They do take safety very, very seriously.” The source added that it highlighted a potential problem for contractors in the region. He said: “There’s a fine line between getting it done and having a safe site. Clients are always ambitious on timescale over here.”