HSE considerations when setting up a new company branch in the UAE

Blog 18 UAE

Organisations looking to set up operations in the UAE must also be aware of the current Federal Laws and other HSE legislation which may be in place specific to the Emirate or FreeZone in which they will be operating. Not understanding health and safety laws may leave a company exposed and liable to criminal and civil prosecutions.

Health and safety law mainly concerns Labour Law (Federal Law No. 8) together with supplementary Ministerial Decisions.  Employees working in any of the seven emirates – whether in mainland or in the free or special economic zones – must also comply with the Labour Law as regards to health and safety.

There are further regulations in place that the employer must consider if relevant to the sector in which they operate. For example, companies licensed through ZonesCorp in Abu Dhabi must also comply with the EHS Management System regulated by ZonesCorp and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. If the company is registered in the mainland Emirate of Abu Dhabi then the Abu Dhabi Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHAD), will require a company to follows these requirements.

TRAKHEES is the regulatory arm of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) in Dubai and the authority responsible for licensing and regulating businesses in special development zones and areas. TRAKHEES jurisdiction also includes lands, complexes and areas owned by the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, Dubai World and subsidiaries of any of these, including, but not limited to; Nakheel, Limitless, Dubai Maritime City, and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC). International companies registered and operating in any of these areas must follow TRAKHEES health and safety requirements, in addition to Federal Laws etc.

What are an employers’ general obligations?

In general, a company’s health and safety obligations include:

  • Provision of training to employees to prevent against work injuries, occupational diseases, fire risk, risks associated with the use of machinery and general hazards associated with their employment. Some accredited training is mandatory also – such as; Fire Warden and First Aid
  • Displaying health and safety requirements clearly on site in both English, Arabic and any other language understandable by the employees
  • Provision of the necessary control measures to protect employees from occupational hazards including; provision of safety clothing, provision of appropriate equipment and tools for personal protection, setting up safety barriers around hazardous equipment and machinery, taking necessary precautions regarding the storage and disposal of hazardous materials
  • Reporting to the Ministry of Labour any accident or incident at work resulting in an employee’s death, or that involves fire or explosion, or which renders an employee unable to attend work for three consecutive days (Article 24 of Ministerial Decision No. 32/1982)
  • Ensuring a trained first-aider is available to provide First Aid assistance and that every first aid kit includes specified contents (Article 4 of Ministerial Decision No. 32/182)
  • Ensure workplaces are kept clean, ventilated, illuminated, have provision of rest and eating areas, potable water and toilet facilities (Article 5 of Ministerial Decision No. 32/1982 and Article 2 of Ministerial Decision No. 27/1/1981)

The company’s in house HSE Manager, or an HSE Consultancy such as Corporate OHS, would assist the company to:

  • Assess the company work activities and develop a Legal Risk Register showing where compliance to health and safety law must be applied relative to the company work activities;
  • Work with employees to assist them to undertake risk assessments, identifying all significant hazards, evaluating these hazards and recommending adequate control measures
  • Assist in the development of safe systems of work and standard operating procedures to control specific work activities
  • Developing and implementing a reporting mechanism to address HSE issues raised by employees
  • Assisting employees to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment and the subsequent development and implementation of emergency procedures, including evacuation plans
  • The above measures are the basis for development of a health and safety management system. This should also be developed and implemented in a manner which complies with both Federal Law and local requirements., such as OSHAD, or a combination of both.
  • The development of management system, such as ISO45001, can provide a demonstrable occupational health and safety requirements and also prove it’s commitment to complying with health and safety law

What are the consequences of failing to comply with UAE HSE law ?

Failure to comply with the statutory HSE requirements in the UAE may result in:

  • Criminal sanctions, the police will conduct a formal investigation into an incident and retain the passports of any employees they consider responsible for the incident. If referred to the public prosecutor and then criminal court, a minimum penalty of at least one year’s imprisonment and a fine may be imposed
  • Civil compensatory damages, subject to the nature and severity of the incident
  • Liability to pay blood money (Diya) Where there is a fatality at work in addition to statutory compensation – under UAE law equivalent to 24 months’ basic salary at the time of death (Article 149 of UAE Labour Law) and/or civil compensatory damages
  • Liability to pay compensation for various other disabilities or partial disabilities (Article 150 of Federal Law No. 8)

Ministry of Labour Inspectors can enter and inspect workplaces at any time without prior notice and impose any measures aimed at averting any danger or risk to employees. They may also levy fines or rectification notices on companies for breaches of these requirements, regardless of whether a workplace accident has actually occurred or not.


If you feel that your company needs expert HSE assistance then perhaps you would be interested in speaking further to Corporate OHS ? We provide health and safety management services, crisis management, HSE system review, improvement and maintenance, general HSE consultancy and COVID-19 response management.

An addition to project based work, Corporate OHS also offers the option of a flexible contract and a monthly retainer, meaning your company gets immediate access to specialized HSE services without the burden of a permanent cost. For enquiries or to find out more about our services, please visit our website or send an email to enquiries@corporateohs.com.

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