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Workers Not Covered For Heatstroke

Olivia Olarte
 (KT Exclusive) / 25 July 2009

ABU DHABI – Construction workers, who are at risk of sunstroke during the summer, are not automatically covered for heat-related illnesses under the Ministry of Labour’s Workmen’s Compensation Insurance, Khaleej Times has learnt.

Workmen’s Compensation Insurance is designed to protect the employer against their liabilities to employees with respect to injuries suffered by them in the course of their employment as per the labour law or workmen’s compensation ordinance. In the UAE, compensation is governed by Chapter 8 of Federal Law No. 1980.

Sunstroke or any heat-related illnesses fall under work-related injuries or sickness.    

According to Ali Adnan Farook, property underwriting manager at Oman Insurance Company, the agency’s Workmen’s Compensation policy covers “any sort of work-related injury as a result of an accident, but not sunstroke or hernia due to heat.”

“Under our normal policy, sunstroke and hernia due to heat are usually not covered, they are a standard exclusion. We cover any sort of work-related injury as a result of an accident. Heat-related illnesses are due to circumstances, due to heat, so this falls under the extension (of policy).”  When asked if construction companies take this extension for workers, he said: “Not many companies. Only big companies with high net worth, but small companies are saving on the premiums.”

He added that when labourers fall sick due to heat, “they have to pay from their (own) pocket.”

An underwriting manager from one of the large insurance companies in the UAE said heat-related illnesses are not included under their standard policy for workmen’s compensation, but he can include ‘sunstroke only’ as an extension of the policy.

He added that as a rule heat stress or heat cramps are not included as “heat stress can be difficult to prove, we get into trouble in the time of claim.”

“Heat stress is not included at all in this part of the world,” he said.   

According to Raghunadh K, group insurance in-charge at Al Fara’a Construction and Industrial Group, all of the company’s nearly 13,000 construction workers spread across the UAE are covered for sunstroke and minor cases of heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps and heat stress, under its work compensation’s extension policy.

“This is as per the law. Our employees are covered for sunstroke, including heat stress and heat cramps, under our extension policy with Emirates Insurance Company in Al Ain,” he said.

Antoine Chamy, group insurance manager of Al Jaber Group, said as a standard policy, sunstroke is not included in the Workmen’s Compensation Insurance, but “in our case, this has been deleted from the exclusion list.”

Chamy confirmed that the company’s 35,000 skilled workers across the UAE are covered for sunstroke under the workmen’s compensation policy, but “not for heat stress.”

Khaleej Times tried contacting several other construction companies in Abu Dhabi, but some declined to comment or disclose the terms of their coverage.

Last week, Khaleej Times had reported that hospitals in Abu Dhabi were under-reporting cases of heat-related illnesses among labourers as these are not covered by their medical insurance.

Dr Ravi Arora, in-charge of the emergency department at the New Medical Centre Speciality Hospital in Abu Dhabi, previously disclosed that patients suffering from heat cramps while at work are flatly denied coverage by their health insurance.

He added that “heat illnesses fall under work-related injuries, (which) are covered by sponsors and not insurance. But employers are (also) not willing to pay.” A survey of major health insurance companies – the National Health Insurance Company (Daman), Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company (ADNIC), NAS Insurance Services – revealed that all work-related injuries or sickness are generally excluded from their coverage.

Their policy reflects the health insurance law by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), which stated that “in the case of work-related injuries, the Health Insurance Scheme will not cover any medical treatments. These will be covered by the Work Compensation Insurance.”

According to Maurice Kallas, surgeon and head of emergency department at Al Noor Hospital, patients who suffer injuries at work and seek treatment at Al Noor should bring with them a letter from their company approving their treatment.

“This is as per the hospital’s policy,” he pointed out.

During the summer months, temperature in the UAE could soar up to 50 degrees. On May 31, the mercury hit 50.2 degrees Celsius at Umm Zumool in the southern part of Abu Dhabi – the highest so far this summer that is recorded by the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.

olivia@khaleejtimes.ae

 
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