Construction workers warned of continued health risks from midday sun

The annual restriction on summer working hours ends next week, but workers should still be careful in the heat and humidity
Construction workers warned of continued health risks from midday sun
(Image for illustrative purpose only - Getty Images)
By Sarah Townsend
Tue 08 Sep 2015 10:35 AM

Labourers remain at risk of heatstroke and dehydration even though the summer working hours ban ends in the UAE next week, a prominent doctor has warned.

Prolonged exposure to any heat above 32 or 33 degrees centigrade reduces the body’s ability to regulate core temperature and can lead to serious health issues and even death – though it varies from person to person, said Dr Atta Alkaznaji, a neurologist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

In June, authorities across the Gulf introduced annual restrictions on summer working hours for construction labourers. In most countries, labourers were forbidden from working for three to four hours in the middle of the day.

The ban was lifted in Qatar last week, and in the UAE, Saudi, Kuwait and Bahrain it ends next week.

But there have been concerns that the heat and humidity is still too intense for people to work in the midday sun.

Dr Alkaznaji told Arabian Business that any temperature above 32 and 33 degrees centigrade – particularly when this is combined with high humidity above 80 percent – can cause the central nervous system to dysfunction and the body’s normal cooling mechanisms to stop working properly. Symptoms are swelling, low blood pressure, organ damage, fatigue and sickness.

Those at particular risk are old people and the medically ill, for example people with hypertension or diabetes, but Dr Alkaznaji said he believes anybody can be affected.

“When we have direct exposure to the sun for more than three to four hours we are at higher risk of health issues,” he said. “Most of the construction labourers working outside are healthy, but they should take measures to mitigate the risk, such as drinking lots of water and staying out of the sun in the middle of the day.”

However, Dr Alkaznaji said he did not expect an increase in illnesses as a result of the change in season, as it is generally more gradual than the sudden increase in temperature often recorded at the start of the summer, giving people time to adapt.

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