Dubai: Workers hope that this year the midday break, which takes effect from Tuesday, will offer respite from the soaring heat as they have been promised shaded areas.
Ebrahim Abdul Al Mona’m, an Egyptian worker, said that this year his company will provide a cool room which he and his coworkers can rest in during the midday break.
“It is good that we can rest in a cool room especially as the midday break makes our day longer as we have to compensate for the three hours in the evening,” he said.
The Ministry of Labour has warned that companies that do not provide a shaded rest area for their workers on site during the midday break will be penalised.
Last year workers complained that they did not have an appropriate place to rest.
Gopal Krishnan, an Indian worker, said that to have a shaded place to rest in during the day would protect the workers from heatstroke.
“It is really hard to work during midday but it is also hard to sit outside without shade but this year things will be different if the company provide a shaded place to rest in,” he said.
While many workers were well aware of the break, others were not sure if it would be implemented this year.
Jibu, an Indian worker, did not know if the midday break was to be implemented this year.
“I know that there was a break last year but this year so far nobody has said anything, if the engineer tells us to stop work tomorrow we will stop otherwise we will continue to work as usual,” he said.
Shajalal, a Bangladeshi worker, said that he did not know of any break.
Spreading awareness on the importance of the midday break will be the main priority for the Ministry of Labour this year, said a senior official.
Humaid Bin Deemas, Acting assistant undersecretary at the ministry, said in a statement, that to guide and educate companies on the importance of the midday break would be the main priority for this year.
Companies across the country have pledged to adhere to the decision although some say the ministry should play a bigger role in educating workers.
Ammar Touqan, Public Relation Manager at Arabtec which has some 40,000 workers, said they are providing the necessary requirements as per the rule but said that the ministry should play a bigger role in educating workers.
Stephen Wyngaard, Safety Department Manager at Al Shafar General Contracting, which has 13 sites and more than 14,000 workers said they had set up rest places at all their sites.
Wissam Ajjaoni, a site manager at Terna SA Engineering, said they had prepared a cool basement for workers to rest in.
Heatstroke cases down
The midday break rule was first implemented in 2005 as per a ministerial decision that stipulated all outdoor work should come to a halt between 12.30 and 4.30pm during the hottest months of July and August.
In the following year the break was reduced by one and half hours but the Ministry of Labour cracked down hard on companies that did not abide by the rule. Since 2006 the break has been fixed between 12.30 to 3pm.
The aim of the decision is to protect workers from the soaring heat of the hottest period of the day in July and August. Heat exhaustion cases have dropped significantly since the implementation of the decision.
While there was an average of 5,000 cases a month in 2004, the cases dropped to 1,500 in 2005. Cases dropped to a record low last year where only 82 cases and two deaths were registered, according to previous Gulf News reports.
More than 1,200 companies violated the edict on midday breaks in 2005. The number has declined since then with the ministry’s Inspection Unit reporting 862 violations in 2006 and 617 in 2007.
Firms found violating the rule for the first time will face a fine of Dh10,000, and transactions will be suspended for three months. Firms in category C will have their transactions suspended for six months.
Second time violators will face a fine of Dh20,000 and have their category downgraded to C as well as have their transactions suspended for six months.
If firms are found violating for the third time, a fine of Dh30,000 will be levied and the company will be downgraded to C and transactions will be stopped for one year.