x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Workers enjoy rest during midday break

On the first day of the midday summer break, workers across the capital lounged in the shade during the hottest hours.

ABU DHABI // As temperatures reached 40°C, labourers across the capital abandoned their hard hats and sought refuge from the heat on the first day of the midday break.

Sites went quiet as workers lounged in unfinished buildings, under palm trees on central reservations and in makeshift shelters.

Workers at the site for the Bab al Qasr Hotel took a nap in fanned tents, while others dug into rice and gulped water. "It gets too hot," Mahboub Rohman, of Bangladesh, said. "You start to sweat too much and feel really weak. It's really important that we drink a lot of water."

Others slept on chairs or on sheets. Still, said Mamon Azom, the heat and humidity of July and August are yet to kick in. "Some workers get really tired and faint. They need emergency medical [treatment]," he said.

At a 16-storey building in Al Nahyan, workers ate lunch in a storeroom converted into a shelter. Crowded on a rug in the air-conditioned room, they were glad of the break.

"We start at 6am, and get three water breaks in the morning," said one. "Now, it is too hot, we need to rest."

At dozens of sites, most workers started their day as early as 5.30am and worked until 12.30pm. As per the law, they resumed at 3pm and continued until 6pm when the next shift took over. At the site of a hotel apartment building, 65 labourers slept in the partially constructed structure, or went to a rest area. "We care about our workers," said Amer Homsi, the project manager for Al Mansouri 3B Construction. "If they take a break, they are better able to work and it is better for us, too."

Other workers, including those near the Salam Street construction project, were bused to and from their accommodation. Not all had so far to go. One Pakistani worker at the Southern Sun Hotel construction site sought shelter in a bulldozer. "I don't need to sleep," he said. "Sleeping is for the night."

Visitors to rest tents were not always welcome, as workers tried to catch every ounce of sleep. "Even the smallest sound can disturb them," said Mohammed Bilal, a Bangladeshi worker.

For the nearly 900 labourers at a future school site in Manasir, the break was not exactly a time for rest. The 120 outdoor workers moved indoors but continued to work.

"The law mentions very clearly that the break is for people who work in exposed areas, but internal work continues as normal," said Khaled Shaheen, the project manager for Ghantoot Transport and General Contracting. "The rest time ... is noon to 1pm, but everyone works inside the buildings until after 3pm."