Midday break for unsung heroes

JULY 1 heralded, for the fourth consecutive year, a most-needed respite for the country's unsung heroes, the labourers, whose toil has played such a big part in the stunning success and development of the emirates.

The midday break rule, initiated by the UAE's Ministry of Labour in the year 2005, comes as part of its commitment to ensuring the health and safety of workers. The rule aims at providing respite to construction workers from the scorching sun and high humidity during the peak summer months of July and August, and bans outdoor work between 12.30pm and 3pm.

Employers who are exempted from the midday break rule have been directed to establish shades and provide umbrellas, cold drinking water, lemon juices, salt capsules, and first aid mobile clinics to workers. All these measures speak highly of the government and its genuine concern for these unsung heroes. While the government deserves all kudos, so do the companies, as the number of violations of the midday rule registered over the years can show.

According to the figures provided by the MoL's Inspection Department, some 1,240 companies were found flouting the ban in 2005, a lesser, 862, in 2006 and a further lesser, 617 in 2007. It's been a steady progress towards ensuring health and safety of workers. Also, some 250,000 workers employed with nearly 150 companies across the UAE are set to benefit from an awareness campaign launched by the UAE's Ministry of Health to make them better understand the importance of taking care of their health while working in the scorching conditions under the sun.

Some construction companies have even made arrangements for transporting workers back to their accommodation during the break time. All this bodes well for workers. However, there is a need to constantly keep a tab on the violators, for all the good work can get spoilt by a marginal few who find no merit in doling out such mercies to labourers.

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