Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

UAE construction workers welcome mandatory midday break

With temperatures surpassing 40°C, the mandatory rest time is much needed for the thousands of men employed on construction sites across the country.
From left: Rameshwar Sharma, Basu Raj, Sanjay Sharma and Suneel Sharma discuss the noon break. Pawan Singh / The National
From left: Rameshwar Sharma, Basu Raj, Sanjay Sharma and Suneel Sharma discuss the noon break. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Construction workers have welcomed the introduction of the three-month-long midday break rule as a chance to down tools and escape the scorching summer heat.

With temperatures exceeding 40°C, the mandatory rest time is much needed for the thousands of men employed on construction sites across the country.

“During the summer we are really tired by noon and our body needs rest. The break is more than enough to rest and relax,” said Rameshwar Sharma, a 43-year-old who works as labourer-in-charge at a construction site in Al Barsha 1.

Mr Sharma said most of the men use the 12.30pm to 3pm break to eat lunch, take a nap or call home. “Our site has an air-conditioned rest area where they can sleep and by 3pm they are ready for the second shift.”

The midday break rule is now in its 12th year and runs from Wednesday until September 15 following international health and safety procedures. Labourers’ working hours during this period are split between morning and evening shifts for a total of eight hours each day.

Companies must post clear information about work hours for staff while shelters must be provided out of the sun. Any firms found to have staff working during the designated break time would be fined Dh5,000 per worker up to a maximum of Dh50,000.

Labourer Basu Raj said working continuously out in the open was extremely difficult at this time of year. The rule offered workers respite.

“I am happy that I will get enough time to sleep and rest during the day. The midday sleep for a few hours will keep my body healthy,” said the 24-year-old steel patcher who gets up at 5am to travel to work.

Rather than sleep, 23-year-old carpenter Sanjay Sharma has other plans for his downtime. “I am a music lover and will listen to my favourite film songs during the break. I usually don’t get time to enjoy music during normal working hours. But the break will give me some space to relax.”

Suneel Sharma, a construction site storekeeper, said he would call family during his break. “I will not use all my midday break sleeping. I will use this time to connect with my friends and family back home,” said the 25-year-old.

Ram Lal Parekh has been working in Dubai since 1994. He can remember the problems working in the heat used to cause him and his fellow workers, when issues such as dehydration, migraines as well as eye and skin complaints were common.

“Since the imposition of compulsory midday break, health emergencies and accidents have declined sharply,” said the 53-year-old manager with Chirag Contracting in Dubai.

“These workers are huge responsibilities. Their well-being is crucial for us. The authorities have zero tolerance if they find any site violating the midday break rule,” said Mr Parekh.

During Ramadan, Muslim workers who are fasting finish their working day by 1pm and return to their accommodation.

“Non-Muslims work a full shift. After Ramadan, every worker will follow the midday routine until September 15,” Mr Parekh said.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

Updated: June 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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