Protect workers against heat, employers urged
Manama , June 20, 2011
Hundreds of outdoor workers visited a major hospital in Bahrain for heat exhaustion in the last week, sparking a call by health officials for employers to take a proactive approach towards protection of their workers against the rising heat.
"Fortunately, there has so far not been any case of heatstroke this summer, but the numbers of exhaustion cases are rising," said Dr P V Cheriyan, Accident and Emergency Department chief resident at the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC).
"For the last week, there have been more than 30 cases a day with severe heat exhaustion symptoms."
It is nearly two weeks before an afternoon work ban takes effect on July 1.
Dr Cheriyan said rather than waiting for the afternoon work ban to become effective, employers should themselves take extra measures.
"It could be far hotter even before July 1 or after August 31, when the ban is over," he said. "The idea is to ensure workers are not exposed to the elements and even if they are, adequate precautions should be taken."
Dr Cheriyan said officials at the Civil Aviation Affairs Meteorology Directorate should also be involved.
"When temperatures and humidity goes beyond a certain level, work must stop, irrespective of the time of the day and the month," he said.
Dr Cheriyan said that almost all those who had come to the SMC so far this year had been discharged after treatment.
"Only a few have been admitted for a day to be kept under observation," he said.
The official said that heat stroke that results from untreated heat exhaustion was a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated.
He said that heat exhaustion could be easily managed and prevented from reaching the heat stroke stage.
Dr Cheriyan said SMC doctors were still treating around 20 cases a day, but most were being administered first aid, prescribed rest and discharged.
Meanwhile, a Labour Ministry official yesterday pledged a crackdown on rogue employers who encourage their workers to flout the ban.
He said that such employers would be severely dealt with and fined heavily.
The official confirmed to the GDN there was no move to bring the ban forward. "We encourage employers to take their own decisions, but we will start to implement the law from July 1," said the official.
Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Subah Salem Al Dossari has said the two-month ban would be effectively enforced between noon and 4pm and cover all outdoor work from July 1.
This is the fifth year in a row since the ban has been implemented and it intends to protect the health of workers and ensure they get adequate rest during the hot summer months.
It is also aimed at enhancing productivity and protecting the health of thousands of labourers at construction sites.
Posters at worksites in several languages would also inform workers on how to take care of themselves and how to follow rules and regulations. – TradeArabia News Service