x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE companies and workers gear up for midday break rule

Companies and workers have welcomed the start of the midday work ban and are looking forward to a safe, if still very hot, summer.

The midday break was first introduced in 2005 when workers were given time off between 12.30pm and 4pm during July and August. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
The midday break was first introduced in 2005 when workers were given time off between 12.30pm and 4pm during July and August. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

DUBAI //

Companies and workers are welcoming the start of the midday work ban and looking forward to a safe, if very hot, summer.

Work at uncovered building sites between 12.30pm and 3pm has been banned by the Ministry of Labour from today until September 15.

Companies' safety officers are urging workers to keep themselves well hydrated, watch out for signs of fatigue in themselves and co-workers and rest if they feel unwell. Some firms began awareness campaigns for staff last month.

"We started doing re-education a month ago," said Wasyl Terych, the corporate health and safety manager for ETA Ascon Star Group.

"We have posters in many languages and have put up urine colour charts so workers can know if they are getting dehydrated. We make staff aware of potential problems that can arise from heat.

"It does not start only at noon but begins at 10am and is there well after the midday break. We tell them to be aware of signs of fatigue. Colleagues are also taught to look for signs and provide care."

The ETA group employs 200 safety officers for its more than 55,000 staff, not all of whom work outside.

"We provide extra fans, shelters, cool water and people are trained in safety," Mr Terych said. "Officers are asked to be more alert during the summer months."

The midday break was introduced in 2005 when workers were given time off between 12.30pm and 4pm during July and August. This was shortened by an hour in 2006.

Last year, more than 50,000 worksite inspections uncovered 109 breaches of the rule.

Workers say companies are giving them tips to avoid heat exhaustion.

"Our company tells us to rest if we feel sick," said Mohammed Issa, 34, a carpenter with a construction firm. "They provide us with air-conditioned shelters.

"There are posters that remind us to keep water with us always. We tell our friends and colleagues to drink water continuously or tell us if they feel dizzy. That way we can look out for each other. It is not so hot now but July and August will be hotter.

"It will be nice if companies can give us more than two-and-a-half-hour breaks."

The Ministry of Labour said the ban would not apply to everyone. Work can continue on outdoor projects that cannot be postponed, such as repairing water, petrol or sewage pipes or electrical lines.

The order also exempts labourers working on licensed Government projects that could affect traffic, electrical and water supplies or telecommunications. Laying asphalt and pouring concrete are classed as necessary on safety grounds and will continue throughout the day.

Dulsco provides electrolyte drinks, caps with hoods and balaclava masks to protect its staff from the sand and heat. The manpower and waste-management company has more than 2,000 employees working outdoors.

"We are experimenting with cool bands with a group of 100 employees who are exposed to the sun in tank cleaning operations, onshore and offshore," said Mohammed Ayoub, the company's deputy general manager of quality, health, safety and environment.

Government departments such as Dubai Municipality also organise annual summer campaigns to promote worker safety.

"Owners and managers of companies have to make available environments that avoid heat exhaustion," said Redha Salman, director of the public health and safety department at the municipality.

 

pkannan@thenational.ae