‘Night-only shifts will cut down heatstroke cases’

AJMAN — The number of heatstroke cases reported last year in Khalifa Hospital in Ajman dropped by 40 per cent as compared to the previous years, according to Dr Abdul Kareem Hilimi, Head of the Emergency Section of the hospital, who attributes the drop in cases to the mid-day break for workers introduced last year.

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Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Wed 24 May 2006, 11:54 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:49 PM

But if the night-shift for workers during the summer is introduced from this year, Dr Hilimi believes that the number of workers falling victims to heat strokes and other injuries at work during this period will decline further.

Although no heatstroke cases have been reported at the hospital so far this summer, Dr Hilimi stated: “It is a bit too early to say. The temperatures will begin to rise in the coming days which will become a cause of concern for the health of the workers, specially those who work in the open on road construction sites and building projects.

“Last year, the cases were few because of the four-hour mid-day break announced in the afternoon during the two months of July and August, giving some respite to the construction workers. About two to three cases were reported daily last year compared to six to ten per day in the previous years.”

Dr Hilimi explained that summer temperatures in the UAE can climb above 40 degrees, making heatstroke a big problem.

“Heatstrokes can be fatal in many cases, because they happen so quickly and there is not much time to react, so that workers who are exposed to the direct sun and heat for more than eight hours are in danger,” he added.

Dr Hilimi said that a heatstroke is the most severe form of heat illness 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. These workers’ bodies produce a tremendous amount of internal heat and normally cool themselves by sweating and radiating heat 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. “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,” Dr Hilimi said.

He added that the contracting companies should provide the supervisors and the foremen of these workers with training courses to educate them about the immediate first aid measures they can take while waiting for help to arrive. “Supervisors also should be familiarised about heatstroke symptoms which include headache, dizziness, confusion, seizure, and dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, a high body temperature, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat as well as hallucinations. Unfortunately, most of the construction companies do not abide by the rules and regulations of protecting the rights of these workers and event bothered to provided them with necessary medical emergency aids that can save their lives.

Companies should make plenty of drinking water and fluids available to workers during the activities, especially on hot days. They should provide them with lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in light colours as well as a hat, sunglasses and umbrellas. The companies are also responsible to schedule hard activity for cooler times of the day, as well as allowing labourers to take frequent breaks to sprinkle themselves with a spray bottle to avoid becoming overheated.

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