ABU DHABI // Employers found breaking the national midday rest rule, which goes into effect tomorrow, will be subjected to a higher fine.
Breaching the rule, which prohibits work outdoors between 12.30 and 3pm, will lead to a Dh15,000 fine for each offence, a Dh5,000 increase on last year.
Ismail Abdoul, a legal researcher for the Ministry of Labour, said the fine was increased because the UAE had experienced record temperatures this year.
“We expect that we also will not see repeat offenders this year, because we have already launched an awareness campaign for many months and people should know the rules,” Mr Abdoul said.
“Any company with repeat violations will damage their reputation and invite increased inspections. This is an issue we take seriously.”
Although the midday break technically begins tomorrow, municipal and ministry officials will not begin inspecting sites until Saturday.
Inspectors across the UAE will visit building and worksites throughout the summer to ensure the rule, which runs until September 15, is implemented, although inspectors will not make regular visits on Fridays.
At a workshop for more than 300 contractors, consultants and developers yesterday, officials laid out the specifics of the rule and highlighted the dangers of working in high temperatures.
Abdulaziz Zurub, the municipality’s head of health and safety, said compliance with the midday break “is about 99.9 per cent”, but other heat-related precautions must also be taken.
“We don’t find very many violations on the midday break,” Mr Zurub said. “But what companies may not understand is what exactly is allowed.”
Some jobs are exempted from the rule – workers who make asphalt or pour concrete for roads, for example – but even they are not allowed to work for three straight hours. Anyone working during the break hours must share a shift.
“Even the exemptions have conditions,” Mr Zurub said. “This is for the companies, not for us. This is to protect all their workers.”
Companies allowed to work through midday must provide water and rehydration supplies, shaded areas and first-aid kits.
Health officials at the training session also detailed the warning signs of heat stress, which can include nausea, muscle cramps and fainting. Dehydration can also lead to heat stroke and in some cases death.
New regulations to measure environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity and air velocity, to determine if it is safe for labourers to work are not expected to be implemented this year.
The Thermal Work Limit index will eventually be used to link breaks and water requirements to the possibility of heat-related illnesses.
More training and equipment is required before the regulations, which are incorporated into the emirate’s Environment, Health and Safety Management System, are implemented.
About 50 ministry inspectors will patrol sites, joining the municipality’s nine existing officials, to ensure compliance. First-time offenders will be fined the Dh15,000 and will not be able to employ new workers or issue new labour cards for three months.
Repeat offenders will face the same fine but will have hiring privileges revoked for longer periods.
Workers who move indoors to continue their work during the break hours must be provided with fans or other cooling equipment.
The municipality and the ministry have launched an awareness campaign on the midday break and thousands of pamphlets on heat stress have been distributed.
“We have to make sure everyone knows the laws,” said Mohammed Al Hosani, the municipality’s head of health and safety inspection and monitoring section.
“We want to change from bad practices to best practices and we want to have zero fatalities on worksites.”
Work hours must be printed in various languages and posted by employers at all sites.