Construction Week newsletter 9th July 2005

Now that the decision has been taken to introduce a midday working ban in the UAE, it is important that it is enforced in an equitable way across the industry.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  July 9, 2005

A bold move, but will UAE’s contractors adhere to ban?|~||~||~|The decision taken by the UAE Ministry of Labour to ban working outside during the hottest four hours of the day was a bold one. It is also one that will have angered many contractors, who will say that there was no consultation with the industry and virtually no warning given. That would at least have enabled them to change shift patterns ahead of the introduction of the new working regime on 1st July. This is all true. But it is also true that what most contractors love about working in the UAE, is that decisions are made quickly here. If things did not happen that way, then the projects for which the UAE is known the world over, would still be on the drawing board. Yes, the industry could have been given more notice. Yes, more flexibility could have been incorporated into the ruling and yes, contractors could have been consulted ahead of its introduction. But if this saves the life of a single construction worker who would have otherwise died from heat exhaustion, then it will have been worth it. And let us be clear on this: Construction workers across the Gulf die every year from heat exhaustion. That governments are acting to limit the potential for heat exhaustion cases has got to be a positive development. Anyone who has experienced summer in the Gulf will know that walking a few hundred metres down the street in the late morning or early afternoon can be a debilitating experience. But carrying plasterboard up and down flights of stairs, fixing rebar or lifting bags of cement in temperatures that can top 50 degrees celcius, is a different ball game. The move by the UAE to introduce the ban comes just weeks after the government of Kuwait also ordered outdoor workers to rest from midday until 4pm between 1st June and the end of August. So it is encouraging that the welfare of construction workers is finally making it on to the agenda of GCC governments. Ensuring that it stays there is what CW’s ‘Build Respect’ campaign has been all about. Now that the decision has been taken to introduce a ban on working between 12.30pm and 4.30pm in the UAE, it is important that it is enforced in an equitable way across the industry. No doubt some contractors will take the view that they would prefer the risk of being fined AED3000-a-man to the alternative of jobs running late as a result of losing four hours out of every working day. That is a judgment call that many contractors will be making in the weeks ahead. It is clear that some firms have already taken the view that it is a risk worth taking. ||**||

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