Bahrain: Workers request to extend outdoor work ban to September

Construction and outdoor workers are pleading to the Labour and Social Development Ministry to extend the outdoor work ban to September as well amidst the mercury levels continuing to remain high in Bahrain. The highest temperature recorded yesterday was 41 degree Celsius. The plea comes as the outdoor work ban strictly implemented by the ministry, starting July 1 ended yesterday.

The ban aimed to protect outdoor labourers from heat stress. Other countries in the region including the UAE generally offer midday breaks for outdoor workers from June 15 to September 15. During the past two months, the ministry has been directing all employers to strictly follow the outdoor work ban in line with the Kingdom’s keenness to protect workers from occupational health issues and injuries, especially during the summer period, which witnesses a rise in temperature and an increase in humidity.

The Labour Ministry has always implemented initiatives that affirm the Kingdom’s position as a leader in ensuring a secure and safe work environment for workers. A construction worker, who doesn’t want to be identified, said it is going to be really difficult to work during afternoons in the coming month as the country continues to witness higher temperatures.

“We are hopeful that a respite will be offered by the authorities ensuring a midday break between 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm, at least until September 15.” The Daily Tribune has carried out many reports on the plight of different categories of workers including small-scale restaurant cooks, food delivery workers and others who were struggling from heat stress during the rising summer temperature.

Another worker said it will be a wonderful move if the ministry implements an outdoor work ban throughout the month of September itself, although “our bodies are ready to bear this extreme temperature”. According to an International Labour Organization report, which quotes many medics, labourers who work during heavy summers are at major health risk.

“Above a certain threshold of heat stress, the body’s internal regulation mechanisms are no longer capable of maintaining body temperature at a level required for normal functioning… If the body temperature rises above 38°C (“heat exhaustion”), physical and cognitive functions are impaired; if it rises above 40.6°C (“heatstroke”), the risk of organ damage, loss of consciousness and, ultimately, death increases sharply.” Global warming is expected to exacerbate heat stress levels even further.

According to a report by Germany’s Max Planck Institute, temperatures in the Mena region could increase by four degree Celsius by 2050. The report notes that “the people in the Middle East and North Africa will then have to expect about 200 unusually hot days per year toward the end of the 21st century”.


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