Midday break in UAE: How the law protects wellbeing of workers

Reuters
Reuters

Dubai - This mandatory annual midday work break was introduced 16 years ago.



By Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli

Published: Mon 14 Jun 2021, 6:12 PM

The midday break announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, MoHRE, will be implemented for three months starting on Tuesday (June 15). Outdoor labour work will be prohibited between 12.30pm and 3:00pm till September 15.

This mandatory annual midday work break was introduced 16 years ago keeping in mind the wellbeing and safety of labourers working under direct sunlight, to protect them from heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

“It is too hot outside, and I am really looking forward to the midday break rule. My shift time will change from tomorrow, and I will work from 5am to noon,” said Naresh, a roadside cleaner, from Nepal.

Some construction workers also echoed similar sentiments and are looking forward to eight hours of work that will end by noon. Amit Biswas, from Jharkhand, India, said, “I have been in Dubai for about five years. It’s good that the government implements this break, as it gets very hot in these months.”

Working in the sun during the hot summer days can deplete as much as 30 per cent of a body’s water before one even starts to feel thirsty. Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions, including construction workers, landscapers, deliverymen and others who spend time outdoors, are at risk for heat-related illness. Additionally, workers who are new to the job or are not fully-acclimatised; those who are 65 years of age, or older; are overweight; have heart disease or high blood pressure; or take certain medications, are at greater risk for heat-related illness.

“Common summer diseases occur during the daytime, especially from noon to around 3pm, when the sun’s rays are directly perpendicular. Taking a break from the heat, especially at midday, when the sun is at its hottest, helps the workers by giving them some respite from hot and humid working environment, so that they can rest and hydrate adequately before resuming work, thereby preventing heat-related illnesses,” says Dr Ramesh, Internal Medicine (Specialist), Aster Hospital, Qusais.

Heat stress can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting, cramps and rashes. High temperatures can also lead to injuries among workers due to sweaty hands, fogged glasses and dizziness.

“Heat stress is exposure to extreme heat, where the body is unable to cool itself through sweating. Heat injuries and illnesses result occur the body cannot effectively get rid of heat as fast as it is generated. If not recognised and treated early, this can lead to serious illnesses and even death,” says Dr Shaza Mohammed - Specialist Family Medicine, Medcare Medical Centre, Al Barsha.

During summer, doctors receive a lot of patients complaining of urinary stones and renal colic because of reduced water intake, exacerbating bronchial asthma. “A lot of people complain of Gastroenteritis and dehydration, and abdominal ailments due to consumption of food that has gone bad as it is not stored at the right temperature,” said Dr Sayyed Rizwan, emergency physician at Prime Hospital.

“Supervisors and employers should educate them time and again regarding potential dangers of working in the sun in high temperatures. They should ensure adequate drinking water for the employees, offer adequate air-conditioned rest places and provide medical attention immediately if needed,” adds Dr Rizwan.

Doctors recommend staying hydrated and acclimatising to the environment. “Workers need to drink enough fluids, both at home and while travelling to keep hydrated. They should drink at least 10-12 glasses of water per day to prevent heat illness. Water is generally sufficient for hydration. Being hydrated when they start work makes it easier to stay hydrated through the day. They need to take food high in water content to stave off dehydration.

Food high in potassium, electrolytes, and, in many cases, a little sugar and simple carbohydrates like coconut water, buttermilk, lemon water, fresh fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumber will also help to keep them hydrated and energetic. They should also avoid sitting in a car parked in the hot sun for a long time and try to park their vehicle under the shade, wash their hands properly and follow general hygiene rules while handling food,” Ramesh added.

- Dehydration

- Muscle cramps

- Conjunctivitis, eye sores

- Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat rash, sun burns

- Food and water borne diseases

- Skin diseases - fungal infections of skin

Don’t let the sun sap your energy

- Stay hydrated

- Avoid excessive tea and coffee

- Eat foods that are cooked properly and stored at right temperature

- Wear sunglasses, sunscreen and face masks

If you notice overheating symptoms

1. Get into a cool place, or at least shade

2. Lie down and elevate your legs to get blood flowing to your heart

3. Take off any tight or extra clothing

4. Apply cool towels to your skin or take a cool bath

5. Drink fluids such as water or a sports drink.

Also…

Take extra precautions with certain medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.

Get acclimatised. Limit time spent working or exercising in heat until you’re conditioned to it. People who are not used to hot weather are especially susceptible to heat-related illness.

Be cautious if you’re at increased risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating.

suneeti@khaleejtimes.com


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