With the UAE recording temperatures above 49℃ this summer and average temperatures in the country forecast to increase by 2.38℃ by 2050, according to the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, workplace heat stress is becoming an increasing concern for companies.
The rising temperatures are not just confined to the UAE. A study by The Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry found that across the entire MENA region, there will be a 5℃ increase in overall temperatures in the next century if no action is taken by countries to remedy the situation. Meanwhile, the Lancet published an article stating that heat-related deaths will increase by 60% in the MENA region by the end of the century, putting thousands more people, including workers, at risk.
For employers, particularly in the region’s booming construction industry, being aware of the heat-stress risks is more important than ever, according to Dr Paul Robinson, managing director, Acumen Software.
“Employers have a moral and legal duty to ensure workers are protected in the Middle East during the hot summer months,” he told HSSE Global. “The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman all have laws in place to restrict outdoor working hours in the hottest part of the day during the hottest time of the year – and the financial penalties for breaking these laws are harsh.”
Dr Robinson cautions employers across the entire MENA region, even in countries without summer working hours restrictions, not to get complacent when it comes to protecting people: “We can’t ignore the harsh reality – summers are getting longer and hotter – and we need practical solutions to keep everyone safe.”
“Even in countries where there are no legal requirements to stop work during certain times of the day in summer, it is advisable for companies to enforce an extended midday break, as well as taking other steps, such as providing adequate hydration on site, reminding employees to drink enough water, and providing comfortable, air-conditioned rest areas when tools are downed,” explains Dr Robinson.
“There are technological solutions to make managing employee safety in hot weather easy, especially with mobile-optimised apps – these are ideal for the Middle East, where mobile phone use is high across all demographics,” he says. “It’s about safety in everyone’s back pocket, whether you’re reminding workers that it’s time for a break, issuing weather updates or making sure everyone stays safe and hydrated.”
Courtesy – Georgia Lewis
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