By Beatrice Thomas
Human rights groups says temperatures are so high in June that the month should also be included in rules
Bahrain’s summer outdoor work ban could be extended by a month, with a meeting between the Labour Ministry and the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) expected to discuss the matter this week, local media reported.
The ban that has been in place for eight years applies between midday and 4pm during July and August, when temperatures are typically above 40 degrees Celsius, but human rights groups have for years been calling for it to also apply in June.
June temperatures in the kingdom have been rising in recent years. The hottest June day on record was recorded on June 27, 2010, at 46.9C, according to Gulf Daily News.
A year earlier, it was the hottest June since records began in 1902, with an average temperature of 35.2C for the month.
Temperatures already have reached 40C this year, while Bahrain's Civil Aviation Affairs Meteorology Directorate is forecasting temperatures in the high 30Cs for this week.
"[Bringing forward] the ban will help boost the productivity and efficiency of the workers and decrease the number of employees falling sick due to heat, which is better for employers," Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Marietta Dias was quoted by GDN as saying.
"A two-month ban is not sufficient, especially with the weather getting hotter these days.
"When we ourselves can't bear the heat even for a few minutes, how human is it to expect these men to work in the heat with all those uncomfortable safety gadgets on?"
Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary said any changes to the summer work ban would need to be done in consultation with businesses, who claimed it would affect their productivity.
Al Dossary also said the weather had been improving and recent high temperatures were an anomaly.
"We will raise the demand in a forthcoming meeting with the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, if possible,” Al Dossary said.
"We have debated the topic during past years and the business community was not keen on it because it would affect businesses.
"However, we are open to listening to the business community and what they have to say on concerns raised by campaigners.
"We also have to admit that the weather is getting better, unlike the last two weeks."
Employers who flout the ban face fines of between BD500 and BD1000 for each worker found working outdoors by inspectors.
More than 2 percent of employers were prosecuted last year, according to Labour Ministry figures.
The summer ban is ridiculous and is another way of trying to placate various countries politicians that are not honestly facing the needs of their citizens, who are robbed in their own countries before coming to Bahrain to work.
I surveyed 295 of my Indian construction workers, and, none of them wanted the work ban, in fact, most requested to reduce the one hour lunch break to only 30 minutes.
Most contractors had an informal system to deal with the heat, if the workers generally felt it was too hot, we would simply close the site for the day, be it half a days work. For more than 45 years, this worked well.
Obviously, when the illegal workers and corruption is introduced, then there are many problems, but banning work from 12noon to 16:00 forces people to work in the dark and at times when the human body is designed to sleep. There is no research done on this issue, in fact, there were many more accidents in 2013 during the work ban.
Ask the workers.