Safety in the heat

Following my comment yesterday about the hazards of being a construction worker in Lebanon, I noticed a report in The National about Abu Dhabi's efforts to protect labourers during the hottest part of the day.

From now until September 15, anyone working "in the sun and open spaces" is supposed to be given a break between 12.30 and 3pm.

Last year 2,717 people were treated in the emirate's hospitals for heat-related illnesses and an unknown number died. The paper continues:

Under the law, labourers must be given sheltered areas with circulated air to rest and rehydrate, or be taken by bus to spend the early afternoon at a suitable off-site rest area. 

But it still permits labourers to continue working in shaded areas such as unfinished buildings, even if the structure lacks windows or air conditioning.

The health authority's "Safety in the Heat" campaign is certainly a good idea but determining whether employers are meeting the safety requirements is a fairly complicated business. It's not just a question of whether people are exposed to the sun or not. The health authority points out that air temperature, humidity and wind speed are also important factors.

This means that effective implementation of the rules will depend heavily on decisions made by the government's on-site inspectors. That, in turn, depends on having a robust inspection system which is not susceptible to influence from greedy employers. 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 16 June 2010.