There is no break from the heat

As tem­per­a­tures soar work­ers are still fall­ing ill de­spite mid­day break

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan and Is­mail Se­bug­waawo @7DAYSUAE

The blis­ter­ing heat con­tin­ues to play havoc with the health of con­struc­tion work­ers - de­spite their com­pa­nies ad­her­ing to the mid­day break rules.

Cur­rently, work un­der di­rect sun­light is banned from 12.30pm to 3pm as per UAE labour laws, un­til Septem­ber 15.

The move is de­signed to give work­ers, par­tic­u­larly con­struc­tion labour­ers, some respite from the sti­fling heat and en­ergy-sap­ping hu­mid­ity of the UAE sum­mer.

How­ever, even though em­ploy­ers en­sure their work­ers take breaks, some have ad­mit­ted they have to treat many on site for heat-re­lated ill­nesses, with tem­per­a­tures soar­ing above 45C, ac­com­pa­nied by 80-90 per cent hu­mid­ity.

At a site on Abu Dhabi’s Reem Is­land, one firm, SEIDCO Gen­eral Con­tract­ing, has in­stalled its own med­i­cal bay with an ex­pe­ri­enced nurse to look after the 700 labour­ers on site.

The nurse, Jerry Ra­jan, said he sees up to 10 cases of de­hy­dra­tion and heat stress ev­ery day.

“The labour­ers are brought to this clinic after suf­fer­ing mostly from de­hy­dra­tion,” he said.

“I give them oral re­hy­dra­tion salts, wa­ter and make them rest for an hour or two.”

In­dian labourer Amar­jeet Singh, 54, who has worked in the UAE for more than 30 years, said: “Ev­ery year it keeps get­ting hot­ter.

“We make sure we have a good break­fast be­fore we start, oth­er­wise we will col­lapse dur­ing work.”

SEIDCO’s safety en­gi­neer, Ben­jamin Omoziki, said the firm tried to make sure its work­ers re­ceive rest and hy­dra­tion.

He told 7DAYS: “We pro­vide the work­ers with cold wa­ter and re­hy­dra­tion salts on ev­ery floor so in case some­one feels sick or dizzy, they do not need to rush some­where else to hy­drate.”

Safety En­gi­neer Ben­jamin Omoziki added: “We have in­dus­trial fans across the site for some air and an ice room which can be ac­cessed by any worker to cool him­self. “The sit­u­a­tion would be worse if the work­ers are not rested in the hottest pe­riod of the day.” 7DAYS spoke to hos­pi­tals that have been re­ceiv­ing labour­ers. Sarhad Clinic in Musaf­fah, said it sees four to five cases of heat stress ev­ery week, while nearby LLH Hospi­tal sees at least three a week. NMC Abu Dhabi and Bur­jeel Abu `Dhabi both re­ported see­ing be­tween two and three cases ev­ery week. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Labour’s break rules, con­struc­tion firms must pro­vide cold wa­ter through­out the day and air-con­di­tioned rest­ing ar­eas dur­ing the break. How­ever, sev­eral doc­tors sug­gested more could be done. Dr Zee­shan Khan, a Spe­cial­ist in In­ter­nal Medicine at Medeor 24x7 Hospi­tal in Dubai, said reg­u­lar breaks to hy­drate, re­mov­ing heavy cloth­ing and ro­tat­ing shifts un­der the sun can re­duce the risk of heat stress and de­hy­dra­tion. He said: “The work­ers should not be des­ig­nated to work un­der the heat for a full day, they should be ro­tated, maybe given one or two hours un­der the sun in batches.”

Photo by Is­mail Se­bug­waawo

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