Health scares over Ramadan working

Forced overtime during holy month is “completely wrong”

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  October 15, 2005

Forcing construction labourers to work overtime during the holy month of Ramadan, when they are abstaining from food and drink, is detrimental to their health, says an emergency specialist at Rashid Hospital in Dubai. Construction Week has received several complaints from workers alleging that their companies are forcing them to work over and above the stipulated six hours. According to UAE labour law it is illegal to ask anyone to work normal office hours during Ramadan. All workers, irrespective of their religious beliefs, may only work for six hours a day with not more than two hours overtime. But many contractors are turning a blind eye to the legislation. “With the kind of work these labourers have to do, it’s completely wrong to impose extra working hours on them,” says Dr GY Naroo working at the emergency section at Rashid Hospital. “There is a reason why the law exists. When people like you and I feel the stress of fasting despite our comfortable work environs, you can imagine what these workers feel.” “It is actually detrimental to their health. While fasting, the body cannot use energy that it usually draws from food, so it taps into alternative energy reserves. It goes to the liver where it uses up the glycogen content or it uses the natural body fats. When this goes on for extended periods of time, it affects these body parts and weakens the immune system. Weight loss is the first noticeable after-effect.” Some construction workers are already in poor health, with many of them suffering from various liver, kidney and heart-related ailments. Naroo says that it is extremely dangerous for workers who are already suffering from an ailment to strain their bodies in such a manner. And he added that damage caused to the body in this way may only manifest itself later. “The effects of strain never show immediately, they come later. For example if you take people who go for the Haj or the Umra, it’s their faith that drives them on. “Abstinence is not natural for the body so if one doesn’t take extreme care, and exerts oneself, it is bound to affect the body in a very negative manner.” He says that if construction workers are forced to strain themselves by working long hours during Ramadan, they will surely suffer the consequences in the long term, as their bodies will be weakened by the month of fasting.

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