The Abu Dhabi City Municipality has kick started a campaign targeting workers to educate them about heat stress and the law restricting the working hours during midday, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Occupational Safety and Health Centre (OSHAD), and the Ministry of Labour.
To this effect a workshop has been held under the theme: Heat Stress and Midday Work Ban, attracting the participation of 650 contractors and consultants. The workshop was held in an effort to raise the awareness of those responsible for managing construction sites as well as environment, health and safety specialists, and urge them to play their roles in enforcing and monitoring the compliance with the Decree, and providing the requirements that ensure the safety of workers and protecting them from being exposed to direct sunlight or heat exhaustion caused by the sweltering summer temperature and humidity.
The campaign replicates the incessant endeavours of the Abu Dhabi City Municipality to ensure better standard of living as well as sustainable environment for residents of Abu Dhabi city. The Environment, Health and Safety Office at the Town Planning Sector, supported by the Department of Municipal Affairs; the regulator of the building and construction sector, and OSHAD, is keen on implementing the rules and standards of safety and occupational health in all construction sites as well as demolition and maintenance sites at world's best practices. It seeks to provide all aspects of safety and security to workers to curb accidents and injuries at construction sites through a series of procedures and periodic inspection campaigns at those sites.
The Municipality stated that enforcing the Decree of the Ministry of Labour banning midday work is in harmony with its strategy aimed at providing a safe working environment for workers at construction sites, and conforms to its mission of delivering quality and effective municipal services. This Decree also reflects the keenness of various entities to safeguard the life and health of workers, and apply the highest humanitarian and health standards capable of providing necessary protection for workers in outdoor sites exposed to direct sunlight.
The Abu Dhabi City Municipality played a leading role in implementing this Decree as the UAE initiative of banning midday work, which conforms to its humanitarian principles and values towards maintaining the safety and health of workers, has become an international model emulated by several countries in the region. The implementation of the midday work ban has also noble humanitarian dimensions and is in line with the policies aimed at safeguarding human rights and continuously improving them besides providing all means of decent living and sustained and safe environment for all community members.
The Municipality has launched an extensive educative campaign aimed at training and educating all those working at construction sites with the aim of broadening the scope of knowledge about the midday work ban in summer from 12.30 pm to 03.00 pm during the period from 15 June to 15 September every year at all outdoor work sites, and highlighting the importance of taking appropriate precautions to maintain the health and safety of workers.
The Municipality has distributed educative brochures in five languages ??in all sites sensitising workers and engineers about the health risks caused by excessive exposure to direct sunlight among other heat strain issues, besides giving first aid care to heat-stricken workers. The Environment, Health, Safety and Environment Division is keen on achieving high levels of awareness and education regarding health, safety and environment standards by distributing guiding leaflets and awareness brochures besides showing footages about improving workers' skills so that they have a better grasp of the requirements and of health, safety and environment standards.
As regards procedures taken against violators of the midday work ban, the Municipality stated that inspection teams would monitor construction sites on regular basis and serve first warning, and if construction companies or consultants continued abusing the ban, project operations might be suspended altogether pending the removal of the violation and validation of the implementation of the health and safety standards, including the adherence to the midday work ban in outdoor areas.
The Municipality makes it clear that it would seriously react to this issue as it has a direct impact on workers' health and safety, and violations as such will not be tolerated as they pose threat to workers' lives. Direct coordination will be made with the Ministry of Labour and violations at building and construction sites will be reported to take the appropriate actions and procedures to protect workers and engineers working in outdoor projects.
It should be noted that the Environment, Health and Safety Division has recently issued a new educational brochure to educate workers about the preventive measures to be taken when ??exposed to heat strain resulting from working under direct sunlight. The brochure has been distributed across the municipal system in Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi City Municipality, Al Ain City Municipality and the Western Region Municipality.
Heat stress, as stated in the informative brochure, may cause serious health risks. Symptoms include excessive sweating, headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscles cramps, weakness and fatigue, drowsiness, dark colour urine, loss of concentration, irritation and low blood pressure. It may also cause fainting, heat stroke and even death in some cases.
The Municipality called upon workers to take proper steps immediately in the event of the onset of any of these symptoms, and not wait for all of them to take place. In such a case they have to take necessary measures including first aid, moving to cool and shady place and trying to reduce body heat by fanning or applying a damp cloth, taking a cool salinised drink to replenish lost fluids and before notifying the supervisor on-site and visiting the clinic to take necessary first aid.
In turn, the representative of the Ministry of Labour referred to the rights of workers with their employees provided for in federal laws and ministerial decisions. He also called on business owners to comply with the provision of means of welfare to workers and highlighted to workers the importance of remaining committed to their duties and following instructions to ensure their safety and protect their health.
The workshop drew the participation of specialists from health sector who talked about the adverse health effects resulting from non-compliance with the recommended health standards to avoid heat strain and sunstroke by avoiding exposure to the sunlight, providing proper nutrition and hydration which can supply the body with the required fluids lost as a result of excessive sweating.
The Municipality has called upon consultants and contractors to take all appropriate measures and provide all the requirements to mitigate the adverse effects of the heat strain as set forth in the decision of the Ministry of Labour. These procedures include perfusion materials and salts approved by health authorities in the UAE, in addition to providing large quantities of drinking water in commensurate with the number of workers as well as providing appropriate cooling systems and sun shielding umbrellas.
The Municipality reminded all workers about the importance of adhering to healthy and preventive practices during work by avoiding direct exposure to sunlight and heat as much as possible. Umbrellas, hats, jackets and helmets should be used and sun-cream should be applied in case of sensitive skin. Plenty of water should be drunk at frequent intervals, besides adding salt to the food and drinks when necessary, in addition to taking electrolyte instead of caffeine drinks.
The Municipality has reminded contractors and consultants to the importance of adopting the best practices related to dealing with workers during summer. These practices include reducing exposure to the sun and heat, taking breaks, and avoiding work at peak hours, besides organising working hours, adopting shift work system, training supervisors and workers to adapt to the work environment, providing more potable water sources, and ensuring unrestricted access to cold water. The civic body has also underlined the importance of careful planning to implement an effective dehydration program for workers who lose body fluids as a result of excessive sweating, besides providing heat cards and first aid at workplace.
The Municipality will pursue its campaign to ensure that this summer will be free from accidents and injuries through the implementation of its prepared summer program in collaboration with contractors. This involves holding congregations and running campaigns within company construction sites, distributing pamphlets and posters, and urging companies to hold their own awareness-raising programs within their sites and accommodation complexes with a view to raising the awareness level of heat risks, and educating workers about the good precautions and practices that they have to comply with while discharging their duties during the permitted working hours in the summer season.
The Municipality will undertake inspection campaigns to verify the compliance with the Decree banning midday work, and take appropriate legal actions against offenders who risk the lives of workers through allowing them to work under direct sunlight during the ban period.