Midday break plea for workers in Oman

Business Wednesday 04/May/2016 21:12 PM
By: Times News Service
Midday break plea for workers in Oman

MUSCAT: As mercury levels in Oman have started crossing 40 degree Celsius, workers toiling in the sun and trade unions representing them are pleading with the government to announce midday break before the scheduled date.
However, a top official from the Ministry of Manpower has said that a mid-day break for workers will begin only according to the law.
“It’s in the labour law. It will begin on June 1 like in the previous years,” Salem Al Saadi, advisor to the Minister of Manpower, told the Times of Oman . According to a Ministerial Decision of 2008, every year, workers employed outdoors are given midday break for three months starting from June. The directive is applicable to construction workers exposed to high temperatures from 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm.
“The break has been announced keeping occupational health and the safety of workers in mind,” the official said.
“Last year, we had a plenty of violations. However, this year, we are conducting awareness programmes, so we hope the numbers will be low,” the official added.
In 2015, a total of 391 companies were slapped with warnings by the ministry for flouting the midday break rule for outdoor workers.
These included 138 facilities in Amerat, 122 in Seeb, 98 in Bausher and 33 in Muttrah, which were found violating mid-day break rules.
According to Article 118 of the 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 double for repeat violators.
Jason Nicholls, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.com, said that for June to August 2015 period, temperatures averaged 1 to 2 degree Celsius above normal across much of Oman and he expects this summer will be on par or similar to last summer.
“It can be slightly hotter this year but not by much. I think the early part of the season has the best chance for heat, with May and June having chances of greatest departures from normal, perhaps a couple of degrees above normal for these two months. July and August may average close to normal,” the meteorologist added.
According to the meteorologists, the normal high in Muscat in June is around 40 degree Celsius, 38 to 39 degree Celsius for July and 36 to 37 degree Celsius for August.
However, global weather forecasts show that high temperatures in Muscat will cross 36 degree Celsius from May 7 itself.
Construction workers at different sites in Muscat said it has become hard for them to work in the sun already.
“It seems this time the summer will be worse. We are feeling it. A few minutes in the sun drains our energy,” Saiful Mohammed, an expatriate construction worker in Ruwi, said.
Rajesh Kumar, another construction worker in Darsait, and his friends said they get dehydrated very soon and are afraid of the coming days.
Abdul Gafoor, a senior official at a construction company in Muscat, said the productivity of workers is affected when mercury levels rise.
“We can’t stop the work as we have to meet the deadline. However, work flow is slowed during summer. We can’t blame the workers. The only option left in front of us is to provide maximum care to protect them during summer,” the construction company official said.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Khaldi, a board member of Oman’s trade union federation, said the government should not wait until June 1 to announce the midday break.
“Depending on the climatic conditions, the government should announce the midday break. It should be flexible. We should not stick to the calendar. Workers’ lives are more important, the trade union leader from General Federation of Oman Trade Union (GFOTU), said.
The maximum temperature in Fahud, located about 300 kilometres (km) from Muscat, is already hovering around 40 degree Celsius, according to global weather forecast offices. Their forecast reveals that it will be crossing 41 degree Celsius in the next two days.
The situation in Qarn Al Alam, which is some 400 km from Muscat, is almost the same.
Major oil fields in Oman are located in Fahud and Qarn, where thousands of workers toil under the sun. Often, the temperature between June and August-end in both Fahud and Qarn Al Alam touches a high of 50 degree Celsius.
“Workers in Fahud and Qarn Al Alam toil under the most precarious conditions during the summer. Already it is bad,” Mohammed Al Farji, another board member of GFOTU and an oil field employee said.