x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Construction firms ducking heat rules

Hundreds of firms are still not providing adequate water, proper work gear, shade and basic medical assistance at sites, officials say.

DUBAI // About 85 per cent of construction companies in Dubai comply with the municipality's regulations on preventing heat-related illnesses at work sites, the civic body said yesterday. That means that hundreds of firms in the emirate still are not providing adequate water, proper work gear, shade and basic medical assistance at sites, officials said. The statistics were revealed yesterday at the launch of the Safe and Healthy Summer campaign, a municipality initiative to help labourers and the public in general cope with the heat. The UAE Ministry of Labour also will impose the annual midday break rule in a few weeks, requiring companies to keep labourers out of the sun from 12:30 to 3pm.

Violators can face fines if they do not heed warnings, officials said. The municipality said yesterday that inspectors would visit construction sites throughout summer. "Apart from workers, common people face heat exhaustion every day, but it is often ignored," said Redha Salman, director of Dubai's Public Health and Safety Department. "A headache or exhaustion after facing the summer is normal as the temperatures increase."

Heat stroke or heat exhaustion were common and often went unreported, he added. Safe and Healthy Summer, which runs until July 4, will see municipality officials conduct lectures on issues that include correct fluid and food intake and how to spot symptoms of serious heat-related illness. Supervisors will conduct training at labour camps, work sites, shopping malls, bus stations and other public places.

Last month the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (HAAD) launched its Safety in the Heat programme, which was organised with the Ministry of Labour. Dr Jens Thomsen, section head of occupational and environmental health at HAAD, said at the time that heat-related illnesses were "one of the most important public-health-related problems during the summer months". "It impacts on safety because it causes a higher incidence of accidents and injuries among those affected by the heat," he said.

Officials said that if the temperature exceeds 40C and humidity is above 60 per cent, a worker can lose up to 2 litres of fluid per hour. Such extreme sweating can lead to dehydration and other heat-related illnesses. Workers must drink two cups of water every half-hour and an electrolyte-replacement drink two to three times a day, the municipality said. There are about 8,000 construction companies operating in the UAE, 3,000 to 4,000 of them in Dubai, according to estimates from the UAE Contractors' Association.

pmenon@thenational.ae