Construction Week Newsletter 16th July 2005

What this ruling means for contractors needs to be spelled out in black and white, and the sooner the better.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  July 16, 2005

Midsummer madness|~|Sean-Cronin200.jpg|~|Sean Cronin, Editor|~|Parasols have never really been an essential part of your typical site worker’s wardrobe. Unlike steel toecap boots, overalls and jeans with the backsides falling out of them, they have yet to enter the mainstream of contemporary building site fashion. But that could all be about to change as a result of the latest decision from the UAE Ministry of Labour to allow daytime working in the shade. The mandatory issue of parasols to every site worker would of course keep everyone happy. Contractors would no longer have to stop work between 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm. Site workers would be protected from the harmful rays of the sun. And the Ministry of Labour would not have to do any more u-turns. The parasol manufacturers, who have been experiencing something of a quiet period since the death of Queen Victoria, would of course be ecstatic at the emergence of this new and unexpected market for their product. But we all know that site workers will not be issued with parasols enabling them to work right through the day. That would be, well, odd frankly. But probably no more odd than announcing that all daytime working should stop and then saying that all daytime working should stop, ‘unless it is in the shade’ — and failing to comm-unicate either pronouncement directly to contractors or the site workers involved. Last week we revealed how construction workers on the biggest building site in Dubai had been kept in the dark about the Ministry’s daytime working ban. At the time we assumed it was because the contractors had not told them. But to be fair to the firms we referred to in last week’s issue, we have since learned that they did not receive any official communication from the Ministry of Labour. As CW has said before, the decision taken by the Ministry to limit daytime working is to be applauded. But the same cannot be said about the communication of that message to the contractors involved. What this ruling means for contractors needs to be spelled out in black and white, and the sooner the better. The subsequent announcement allowing work to continue in the shade seems like it could become a recipe for disaster. Already makeshift shade-producing structures have started popping up on sites around Dubai in an apparent attempt to exploit this potentially dangerous loophole. As we point out on page five of this week’s issue, it is humidity rather than dry heat, which can be the biggest contributor to dehydration and potentially fatal heatstroke. So makeshift shades are not really any sort of solution to the problem. Finally, when we launched our ‘Build Respect’ campaign, we said that we would highlight good practice in this industry as well exposing bad practice. So fair play to the growing number of contractors such as Dutco Balfour Beatty, that are moving to provide oral rehydration fluids on their sites. It probably is an altogether more sensible idea than dispensing parasols. ||**||

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