x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Workers drink in advice on hydration

The inaugural Pass the Glass event saw 12,000 bottles of water handed out to thirsty labourers.

Volunteer Shahid Zubair passes a glass of water to a labourer at a Dubai building site.
Volunteer Shahid Zubair passes a glass of water to a labourer at a Dubai building site.

DUBAI // It is midday, the sun is directly overhead and the humidity is hovering somewhere around 40 per cent.

Three overall-clad labourers with red handkerchiefs tucked under their hard hats seek shelter under a shaded underpass near a Dubai Marina construction site. The men wipe sweat from their faces and chat in small groups as they lie on the grass during a 10-minute respite from the heat.

For these workers, dehydration is a real fear. Even with midday breaks and municipality enforced drinking stations at most construction sites, getting enough water is a difficult task for the emirate's enormous workforce.

Yesterday, about 100 volunteers set out to help educate more than 12,000 workers in the city on the dangers of dehydration, as part of the inaugural "Pass the Glass" event.

Organised by Volunteer in Dubai, the event saw more than 25 cars filled with volunteers traversing the emirate. They passed out water and pamphlets in four languages, urging labourers to regularly check their hydration levels.

Shella Romero, a 26-year-old regular volunteer for the organisation, said workers knew they should stay hydrated but they may not be aware of the dangers in not taking regular water breaks.

"This is a good way to spend a Saturday," said Ms Romero, a Filipina who works for Middlesex University. "I have two days to myself and it's only a few hours. It's so easy to join this cause." At construction sites, on roadsides and on landscaping projects across Dubai, crews stopped to hand out water and pamphlets to the thirsty people who were toiling in the sun.

"In our own small way, we can help these workers who work so hard," said Daisy Villanueva, a 28-year-old Filipina who works at an engineering company.

Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches and dizziness, but prolonged lack of water can lead to heart and kidney problems.

At a construction site near Dubai Marina, more than 700 workers have access to drinking water, juice and rehydration salts. But Walid El Bosaty, the construction manager for the Arabian Construction Company project, said the Pass the Glass event was a welcome complement to the company's existing procedures.

"Hydration is very important to us," Mr El Bosaty said as workers crowded around volunteers to grab a drink. "Our workers know it is important to stay safe and drink very often."

Pass the Glass, which will make its debut in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, was not problem-free during its first run. Lola Lopez, the founder of Volunteer in Dubai and its sister organisation Volunteer in Abu Dhabi, said the event encountered "operational hiccups" but that they will be ironed out as the programme progresses.

"Today, as I was watching a queue of volunteers collect the water and get ready to go out, I just thought, 'This is so energising'," Ms Lopez said.

For the Abu Dhabi event, she said she would distribute the water at one construction site, rather than organising dozens of cars to go out. In the future, she said, she expected to improve the event by getting chilled water and recruiting more Urdu and Hindi speakers.

Al Ain Water donated 12,000 cups of water for Pass the Glass. The same amount will be handed out in the capital at the weekend.

At the future site of Dubai Pearl, a mixed-use development in the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, more than 300 workers gulped down their donated water yesterday.

"They are saying that they are glad for the free drink, but they are more glad for the education, the awareness," said Shahid Zubair, a 32-year-old Pakistani volunteer who made presentations to groups of labourers about hydration.

"It's days like today that it's hard not to love my job," Ms Lopez said.