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Putting people first at The Red Sea

 

By Brian Spraker, Head of Health, Safety and Security at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) 

Following the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the focus that World Health and Safety Day is shining on the importance of safe practices at work is arguably more important than ever. This is a mission that is already central to The Red Sea Development Company’s (TRSDC) business philosophy, where the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of our employees is paramount. 

TRSDC’s strategy for health and safety encompasses the entire business and includes innovative approaches to not only meet recognized standards set by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) but exceed them to set new benchmarks for workplace health and safety. By committing to raising these standards, we hope to make every worker’s experience onsite positive and, most importantly, safe – whether they are employed by TRSDC or one of our partners.

Protecting employees in the midst of a pandemic 
Since the outset of the pandemic, TRSDC has had a clear plan in place to ensure that our diverse community of workers always feels supported. For instance, our business resilience committee, set up to support response and recovery activity, introduced a flexible working policy and brought in e-learning courses so employees could continue to develop their skills. 

The health and safety of onsite workers during this uncertain time has also been a real focus of the business. Throughout the pandemic we have been able to safely maintain our  onsite workforce, which has allowed construction to remain on target. To ensure that everyone had  enough space to social distance, a  portion of our workers were  moved to temporary accommodations outside of their normal accommodations,  including  four local schools.

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Pleasingly, the hard work we put in to maintain the health and safety of our valued workforce during the pandemic was formally recognized at the Big Project Middle East Awards in January of this year. TRSDC was presented with the Excellence in Health and Employee Safety award for our Covid-19 Health and Safety Plan, which worked to ensure the safety of employees both onsite and at the company’s headquarters. 

Building a community at the Construction Village 
TRSDC also recognizes that it is important that workers’ mental health is given the same level of attention as their physical health. Access to exercise and recreational activities, and regular communication with family and friends comes as standard at our project and makes a world of difference for the workforce.

Given the remote location of the site, significant investments have been made to ensure the development is a home away from home for workers. In the Construction Village, there are 12 landscaped neighborhoods. Each room is shared by a maximum of just three workers and is equipped with en-suite bathrooms and partitions between beds for privacy. There are personal safes for belongings, computers for checking emails and Wi-Fi available in all areas so that staying in touch with friends and family is easy. These features are not offered as standard industry wide, but we offer them because we are committed to providing workers with a comfortable and secure place to live. 

Outside of work, the Construction Village also provides opportunities to improve health and fitness through sports and other activities. The complex is framed by sweeping desert dunes and mountains on one side and the pristine waters of the Red Sea on the other, workers venture outside the village to explore the natural surroundings by bike or on foot. Residents can enjoy the use of cricket pitches, volleyball and basketball courts, football pitches, gyms and cinemas. A supermarket and barber shop are also available onsite for workers to use during their spare time. These facilities demonstrate that every effort is made to ensure workers have adequate downtime and can achieve a healthy work life balance, which is vital for overall wellbeing. 

Creating a hospital in the middle of the desert 
The remote location of the site makes it a challenge to ensure workers and contractors are in close proximity to medical facilities at any given time. At the peak of construction activity, up to 30,000 workers could be in multiple locations over a huge development area. Therefore, having the ability to respond rapidly to medical emergencies is a critical component of TRSDC’s worker welfare program.

In 2020, International SOS – Al Rushaid were brought on board to manage all medical services across the project. This included the construction of a 700 sqm central medical facility within our Construction Village to provide a range of services including primary healthcare, occupational health services and emergency response.

The central ‘hub’ medical facility and satellite clinics at construction worksites across the development mean that all workers can readily access medical assistance should they need to. 

The most important investment a business can make 
TRSDC has invested heavily in worker welfare and employee health and safety as this really is the most important investment a business can make. At a glance, building an entire hospital from scratch and offering staff world-class accommodation may look like a significant investment, but TRSDC employees are the life and center of the project. Without them the project would not have been able to get off the ground or develop at the speed that it has.