Summer heat affects shade workers

Health and safety expert says that contractors have to consider the heat of the indoor working environment

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By  Angela Giuffrida Published  June 17, 2006

Contractors are being urged to step up measures to prevent dehydration and other heat-related illnesses among construction workers. The warning comes after heatstroke claimed the life of an Indian worker in Dubai last weekend as he laboured on a site near Knowledge Village in temperatures of up to 45 degrees C. Hospitals in Dubai have also reported a rise in the number of construction workers being admitted for heat-related illnesses since the start of the month. “At the moment we are dealing with an average of 20 emergency cases a day because of the heat,” said Ameer Hassan Mohammed, head of admissions at Rashid Hospital. According to Ken Bethune, Multiplex’s health and safety manager for the Middle East, labourers working inside buildings are often at greater risk of suffering from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion than those working under the sun. “The men working inside find it harder than those working outside as often there is no form of air conditioning in place within the buildings,” he said. “Once the windows are put in no air gets through, which is obviously particularly hard on workers during the summer months.” There is no law in the UAE that prohibits outdoor work when the temperature exceeds 50 degrees C, although medical experts have reported that it is dangerous for labourers to work in temperatures of more than 40 degrees C. The Ministry of Labour did stipulate last week that employers must provide their staff with a break from 12.30pm to 3pm during July and August. “We make sure that our contractors put fans in buildings where air is restricted,” added Bethune. “We also tell contractors that they have to come up with ways of stopping people from dehydrating, such as making sure that water coolers are close at hand across the site. A lot of workers don’t eat much, so this leads to dehydration too.”

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