Employers responsible for workers' ‘heat stress’

Wrong perception that healthy food is unaffordable: Dubai

In the current Safe and Healthy Summer Campaign of the focus of the Public Health and Safety Department of Dubai Municipality is on the employer.

The employer has a moral obligation towards its workers, and towards rules, regulations and international standards regarding the heat stress hazards of workers during the summer months in the UAE, finds the Occupational Health and Safety Section (OH&S), which distributed a chart designed by Raed Al Marzouqi displaying the benefits of this approach.

“In fact, it is not only an obligation for the employer,” explains Al Marzouqi, Head of the OH&S Section, Dubai Municipality. “The employer will gain great wins.”

One of the points of focus of the department is on nutrition. “For workers who face the challenge of heat distress, nutrition is very important. An employer should have the role of an educator here,” says Al Marzouqi.

He points out that many workers follow a consumption pattern which they know from home. “For example, many workers drink karak tea, because it is a habit for them. But karak tea contains caffeine, and this may contribute to dehydration.  For every cup of karak tea, they need to drink two cups of water.

“Another aspect that plays a role is the price of food,” says Al Marzouqi. “Workers tend to look for the cheapest option, and end up filling themselves with a one-dirham paratha, which they top with a bit of sugar or salt.

“The perception may be that healthy food is unaffordable for these workers, but that is not true. There are cheap options that are still affordable. And it is the responsibility of the employer to make workers aware of this, or provide with the right nutrition.”

For workers it can prove beneficial to improve the health and safety standards of the workers for a couple of reasons, finds the OH&S.

“Workers will work much harder when they feel well,” says Al Marzouqi. “A worker that feels exhausted day after day might not show up one day. This instigates losses on the work floor. But a happy, healthy worker will be dedicated to his company, and the company will produce two or three times better.”

Al Marzouqi also points out that every summer the number of work related accidents increases. “It is hard to identify a direct link, because it is sometime snot clear how an accident happened. But it is very likely that exhaustion plays a role.

An exhausted worker is more likely to make mistakes, to drop a tool or to fall from a building.”

The costs of injured workers, replacing workers, damaged products or decreased productivity should all play a role in the decision of employers to take on a responsible approach towards the health and safety of the employees, stresses the OH&S.

“We are hoping to raise this awareness among companies by reaching out to them and by inspecting the work sites,” adds Al Marzouqi.

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