Glaring violations of midday break rule

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Glaring violations of midday break rule

Violations of midday break rule and other safety norms has once again come to the fore as a Bangladeshi worker died of heatstroke and another fainted and fell from a building


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Fri 29 Jul 2011, 12:34 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:58 AM

That several construction companies give two hoots to the midday break rule and other safety norms has once again come to the fore as a Bangladeshi worker died of heatstroke and another fainted and fell from a building under construction in Sharjah on Thursday.

Both victims were working though it was past 12.30pm when the midday break is supposed to start.

In the first incident, the 35-year-old Bangladeshi worker, who was on duty and was walking on the pedestrian pavement of Immigration Road when he fainted around 1pm. The police patrols and an ambulance rushed him to Al Kuwaiti Hospital but he died on the way.

In the other incident, the 21-year-old worker — also a Bangladeshi — was working on the top floor of a building under construction in Industrial Area No 10 around 1.30 pm when he suffered the heatstroke and fell to the ground.

A source at Al Kuwaiti Hospital said the worker passed out and fell to the ground, which caused head injuries and several fractures. He is now battling for life in the ICU.

A police officer who was among the team that shifted him to the hospital said the worker was not wearing a helmet and was working in the afternoon.

Doctors at Al Kuwaiti Hospital said the first worker died after he suffered heatstroke which caused multi-organ failure that included heart failure.

Heatstroke cases rise

Dr Amina Ahmed, Head of Surgery at the Emergency Section, said the hospital received 19 cases of heatstroke in the last three days. It has been getting heat exhaustion cases everyday since the summer started.

The total number of heatstroke cases handled by Al Kuwaiti Hospital alone last year was 817.

Officials at the Ministry of Labour (MoL) and Sharjah Municipality have attributed the increase in the number of heatstroke incidents to the failure of many construction companies to comply with the safety rules laid down by the civic bodies and the labour law.

A top official at the MoL office in Sharjah said the rule states that labourers who work in the open without any shade must be given a break in the afternoon but it does not apply if labourers are working in shaded areas.

“The ministry has been conducting inspections since the midday break rule came into force and companies violating the rule face a fine of Dh10,000 which will be doubled if the offence is repeated.

“The inspectors will not tolerate those who expose the lives of workers to danger in their bid to make profit.

Dr Shaikha Abdulah, Head of Health Awareness at Al Kuwaiti Hospital, said the cases handled by the hospital in the last three days include construction workers suffering heat exhaustion and some others afflicted by heatstroke.

A life-threatening condition

She added a heatstroke is the most severe form of heat illnesses and is a life-threatening emergency. It is the result of long, extreme exposure to the sun, in which hardworking labourers are not sweating enough to lower body temperature. It is a condition that develops rapidly and requires immediate medical treatment.

The bodies of such workers produce a tremendous amount of internal heat, which in a normal condition cools off when they sweat and the heat radiates through the skin. However, in certain circumstances, such as performing vigorous activity in the extreme heat like the workers do, the cooling system of their bodies may begin to fail, allowing heat to build up to dangerous levels, she said. “If a labourer who is working hard becomes dehydrated and cannot sweat enough to cool his body, his internal temperature may rise to dangerously high levels, causing heatstroke.

“Unfortunately, most of the construction companies do not abide by the rules and regulations for protecting the rights of these workers and they are not even bothered to provide them with necessary medical emergency aids that can save their lives.”

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