Renewed calls in Oman to link mid-day break to temperature

Energy Monday 05/September/2016 21:36 PM
By: Times News Service
Renewed calls in Oman to link mid-day break to temperature

Muscat: Mid-day breaks for workers in open areas should be linked to temperature rather than over a set period of time, according to trade union leaders and workers.
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Medics have reported treating 1,000 patients in three months who are suffering from heat related illnesses and conditions as many employers do not give sun protection products to their workers. “The implementation of a mid-day break should be linked to weather conditions. It should not be for a stipulated time. It should be made flexible,” Mohammed Al Khaldi, a trade union leader in the oil sector and an official at the General Federation of Oman Trade Union, said.
According to a global meteorologist, September and October will be warmer than usual in Oman and residents will have to wait until November for a more pleasant climate.
“September and October look like warmer-than-normal months. It will be more seasonal in November,” Jason Nicholls, a senior meteorologist and international forecasting manager at Accuweather, said.
The mid-day break is announced every year in accordance with Article 16 of the Oman Labour Law for occupational safety and health regulations, which states that workers must not work at construction sites or in open and elevated areas from 12:30pm to 3:30pm during June, July and August.
“This ministerial decision was put in place to protect workers from the scorching heat during the summer. It was implemented on humanitarian grounds,” said the trade union leader.
“Following the rule for only three months without considering weather conditions, is not good,” the trade union leader said, adding that the law is something one can refer to, but in practical terms the hot weather can extend beyond the deadline for the ban on work ending.
This year’s three month-long mid-day break, which began on June 1, came to an end on August 31, and some 254 companies were warned and four fined during the course of 2,332 inspections.
According to Ministry of Manpower data shared with the Times of Oman, in June, 162 companies were issued warning letters and three more were fined.
“In July, 70 warning letters were issued and one was fined. In August, 18 warnings were issued,” the official data revealed.
According to Article 118 of the Oman Labour Law, violators can be penalised with fines ranging from OMR100 to OMR500, or a jail term of not more than one month, or both. The penalty is doubled for repeat violations.
In 2015, 391 companies were warned by the ministry for violating the mid-day break rule for outdoor workers in Oman.
An official from the ministry said the mid-day break is announced according to law and it is difficult to comment on whether it would be extended or not.
Meanwhile, a medic in Muscat said he has treated at least 1,000 patients, who are suffering from heat-related ailments conditions during the last three months.
“Out of the 70 patients, whom I treat daily, 10 to 15 are suffering from heat related ailments. So, during the last three months, I have treated more than 1,000 patients,” Shibu Mohammed, a dermatologist at Badr Al Samaa in Ruwi, told the Times of Oman.
Heat-related ailments
Medicines for heat-related ailments are not covered under insurance, which makes the workers reluctant to pay from their pocket and this eventually worsens their condition.
“The majority of them come back to me, with worsened conditions, then I supply them sample packets, which medical representatives provide me. Companies should at least try to cover their treatment and medicines for heat-related ailments,” he added.
Vijay George, a medic in Salalah, also said he had treated at least 1,000 workers with sunburns and other heat-related ailments between April and the end of June.
“In Salalah, summer comes early. So, we have had patients coming to us since April, who are suffering from heat-related ailments. At least eight to 10 patients used to visit me daily up until the beginning of July,” George, a dermatologist at the Atlas Hospital in Salalah, said.
Sunil Kumar, a project engineer at Najmat Al Fujairah Trading, said they take care of workers’ health and provide a break if the weather conditions are bad.
“We give first preference to workers’ health. If the weather conditions are not favourable, then we change the timings. We give them a break and continue work when the weather conditions are okay. Without workers in good health, companies cannot operate,” Kumar added.
In the United Arab Emirates, the three-month mid-day break starts on June 15 and runs until September 16, with workers banned from working outdoors from 12.30pm to 3pm.