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Safety Precautions in Hot Seasons

October's regional comment

As a sign of the government’s interest in health and safety, and upon its support to follow all the health and safety measures, comply with occupational health and safety regulations, and have the proper PPE in place during the Hot Summer in the UAE; the UAE government set rules on working under the high ambient temperatures when you have outdoor works and activities.

Such laws and rules were set in place in 2008 and the government set penalties for any noncompliance, to urge people to follow such rules and minimise the number of non-compliances. Based on that, all businesses have to provide their outdoor workers a midday break between 12:30 to 15:00. Companies that violate the midday summer break will face penalties. Offenders will have the classification of their firms downgraded by the Ministry of Labour, with operations suspended based upon the gravity of the breach. In the event of plurality of labourers cause to work in breach of the Ministerial Decree, companies will be fined from AED: 5,000 per staff member to a maximum of AED50,000.

The law allows for some exceptional/ emergency cases that require continuation of work during those periods for technical reasons. The same should be communicated with the companies’ respective HSE team members in advance, prior to commencing the job, to be able to report the same to the Ministry of labour and have the required exemptions. Precautions should be taken in such cases, as well as ensuring that the workers are wearing the suitable PPE that can reduce the risk of the heat generated from the sun. Employers are also required to provide first aid kits in the workplace, means of appropriate cooling systems, protecting umbrellas or hats for sun protection from direct sunlight, and sunscreen lotion.

Businesses excluded from banned working hours include those working on mixed asphalt poured concretes if it is impossible to implement or supplemented the necessary work in one day. This is also the case for these workers if it is impossible to do work to prevent expected danger, reparation, damage, malfunction or loss. Another sector of workers excluded from midday break regulations is those carrying out emergency work, including cut lines, gas or petroleum pipelines, water supply, sewerage, electricity and those handling cut off traffic or blocked public roads. It also includes work that requires a permit implementation of the competent governmental authority because of its impact on the flow of traffic and services.

Health Authorities also intervene and take responsibility of education of the concerned people on the precautions and recommendations they have to take during the hot season. The employees usually have the following recommendations to follow through the hot summer:

  1. Avoid exposure to direct heat and stay indoors or in an air-conditioned environment whenever possible.
  2. Use sun cream 30 minutes prior to going out and continue to reapply according to the package directions. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids.
  3. Start the day well hydrated – For breakfast, with your snack, eat fruits, vegetables and drink plenty of water or unsweetened juice.
  4. Limit salt/sodium intake, including crackers, chips, pretzels, salted nuts, popcorn, etc.
  5. Limit sweets (i.e. sugar) to night time and try to avoid them for breakfast, since sugar increases dehydration. This includes candy, cookies, cakes, pies, sodas and sweetened juice drinks and many processed foods.
  6. Slow down – avoid strenuous activity – if you must do strenuous activity, try to rest often in a shady area and do it during the coolest part of the day.
  7. Take regular breaks when engaged in physical activity on warm days. Take time out to find a cool place. If you recognise that you, or someone else, is showing the signals of a heatrelated illness, stop activity and find a cool place.
  8. Learn how to recognise heat related illness, recommended actions and first aid measures.
  9. Report all signs of heat illness to the supervisor.

The authorities also set some recommendations to the employers as follows:

  • Inform and train workers and supervisors to recognise heat stress
  • Provide workers with appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment where applicable
  • Allow workers to self-pace where applicable
  • Establish engineering controls where applicable such as:
  • Exhaust ventilation such as part enclosures of local hoods above heat-generating processes
  • Forced air-ventilation to increase airflow (where air temperature is less than 35 °C)
  • Cooled air from an HVAC system or using refrigerated air – Shade from direct sunlight

The above reflect the importance of occupational health and safety in the UAE and the continuous improvements in the related measures by setting high standards and urging employers to follow and comply.

Outdoor workers should wear a wide-brim hat to protect the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp from the sun. They may also wear specially designed headbands, head covers, and neck bands that feature technical textiles that extend the bodies cooling system to provide additional cooling relief from the heat. Such bands might not be available in all the markets, but once available it will help in controlling the head and body temperature under the sun. Moreover, outdoor worker’s eyes need to be protected from glare and the sun’s rays, but they must be able to see to be safe and productive.

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Ali Sadeddin is a mechanical engineer who has been involved in the construction field for more than 20 years. Having more than 14 years of intensive exposure to procurement and operations in the construction sector, he is currently serving as Procurement Director (Head of Procurement) at Khidmah LLC, a leading company in facility and property management.