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Campaign under way to beat heat stress in UAE

Workers to limit work to six hours in Ramadan as per labour law, says Ministry of Labour

  • 15 staff: scaffolding
    Due to the high summer temperatures in the UAE, heat stress and hyperthermia (raised body temperature) was a dImage Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News
  • 15 staff: scaffolding
    Construction workers working under hot sun at a site in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Despite themidday break for outImage Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Temperatures are set to soar this Ramadan to nearly 50 degrees Celsius, and health officials and doctors in the capital are warning outdoor workers to take extra precautions during the month of fasting.

A doctor at a leading hospital in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News that due to the high summer temperatures in the UAE, heat stress and hyperthermia (raised body temperature) was a definite risk for those exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

Dr Roshan John, a specialist in internal medicine at Lifeline Hospital said that Ramadan required people to stay especially hydrated.

"Often the temperature is high in summer and humidity is low. In such conditions, the body does not sweat to cool itself down, and body temperature rises to above its normal 37.7 degrees Celsius.

"This is very dangerous and can lead to dizziness, severe dehydration and even seizures especially if there is no proper hydration," Dr John said.

Protective clothing

He urged companies to ensure that workers who are fasting immerse themselves in cold water, and move to the nearest cooling unit, if they feel dizzy or feverish.

He also recommended that workers wear personal protective clothing such as hats, as this would help avoid heat stress.

According to an official at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), Ramadan is expected to begin on August 10 or 11 this year, with temperatures rising to a maximum of 48.8 degrees Celsius, with an average humidity of 57 per cent during that period.

Despite the midday break for outdoor workers, the risk of heat stress is very high, especially for workers observing fasts as they go without water and salts for a long period of time.

An official at the Ministry of Labour said that according to the Labour Law, outdoor labourers, like everyone else, will only be allowed to work for six hours during Ramadan.

"They will not be allowed to work any more than the prescribed six hours, and this working time should exclude hours of the midday break between 12.30 and 3pm," he said.

He also added that proper hydration and fluids should be provided for workers who are breaking their fast at work sites. During Ramadan, the Health Authority — Abu Dhabi (Haad) will also distribute posters, pamphlets and awareness videos for workers and supervisors, with advice for fasting workers, as part of its ‘Safety in the Heat 2010' awareness campaign.

These resources will be available in eight languages and would be easily accessible to workers of different nationalities.

Tips: Recommendations

• Confine outdoor work (under the sun) to cooler areas.
• Always wear caps and protective clothing when outside during the day.
• Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks which contain electrolytes.
• Eat a lot of salads and water-containing fruits such as watermelon when not fasting.
• If at all possible, try and avoid certain psychiatric medicines that could increase body temperature.
• In case of extreme exhaustion, dizziness or feverish symptoms, visit the nearest medical centre.

Dr Roshan John, Internal Medicine Specialist, Lifeline Hospital Abu Dhabi

How do you plan to cope with the summer this Ramadan? Will you be able to avoid stepping out during the day?