x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

At least 40 per cent of workers are dehydrated before they even start work, officials say

The midday break started on Sunday and runs until September 15, from 12.30pm to 3pm across the UAE.

Construction workers in Dubai enjoy a respite from the heat on the first day of the compulsory summer midday break. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Construction workers in Dubai enjoy a respite from the heat on the first day of the compulsory summer midday break. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // As the summer midday break for outdoor workers began on Sunday, health experts warned that thousands of labourers are already dehydrated before they start work.

They urged workers to drink at least a litre of water before a shift to prevent heat exhaustion amid soaring temperatures. “Improving hydration is the key to self protection,” said Darren Joubert, the senior officer for occupational health at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

Outdoor workers should come to work hydrated and “maintain adequate hydration through the day and drink at least two litres of water every two to three hours”, he said. “Drink water even if you are not thirsty.” The body relies on sweating to cool down and poor hydration prevents this, meaning workers could suffer from heat exhaustion, he said.

He also advised workers to check their urine. “A small volume of darker urine is one of the symptoms of dehydration.”

The midday break from 12.30pm to 3pm runs until September 15.

Employers must provide shaded areas for workers and they must completely cease work during this time.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Labour will enforce the break with hourly visits to worksites.

Employers found to be in breach of the rule face fines of up to Dh15,000, and possible closure of their businesses.

The ministry has distributed brochures in Hindi, Urdu, Nepalese, Bangla, English and Arabic to tell workers and business owners about the break.

There are some exceptions to the ban, including emergency work on power and water lines.

Maher Al Obed, assistant undersecretary at the ministry, urged companies to “stop work completely during peak hours and provide suitable working environments and all means of work-related health and safety measures”.

“We formed 18 teams of specialised inspectors to follow up on this issue, making sure that all companies are following the decision,” Mr Al Obed said.

The ministry, the health authority and Abu Dhabi Centre for Environment, Health and Safety also launched a campaign on Sunday to educate employers and staff about potential workplace injuries.

Dr Jaber Al Jabri, the centre’s director general, said: “We are targeting around 2,700 facilities and 600,000 workers, including administrators, supervisors and safety officials.

“We will be hosting 31 heat stress educational workshops over the next three months and 1,206 field visits for inspection purposes, in which we’ll be distributing posters and leaflets in six languages.”

The break was introduced in 2005 when workers were given time off between 12.30pm and 4pm during July and August.

The following year it was shortened by an hour, but the period was extended from two to three months from June 15 to September 15.

anwar@thenational.ae