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Thu 2 Jun 2011 01:03 PM

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Midday break too expensive for Oman oil and gas giants

Oil and gas officials want their sector to be exempt from midday work rule to save costs

Midday break too expensive for Oman oil and gas giants
O&G WORKERS: The energy sector in Oman currently employs around 4,000 workers (Bloomberg Images - for illustrative purposes only)
Midday break too expensive for Oman oil and gas giants
(Bloomberg Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Oil and gas officials in Oman have asked that their sector be exempt from the midday break rule for workers, as it is costing the industry “millions of dollars”.

The law, which states that no employees are to work outside between 12.30 and 3.30pm during the peak summer months, was implemented to prevent workers from collapsing of heat exhaustion, as temperatures soar beyond 50 degrees.

Originally, the rule only applied to construction workers, but became law for the oil and gas sector after a series of industry-wide protests. The law stipulates that exemptions can be applied for under special circumstances.

Oil and gas companies in Oman complain that the hours lost cost them too much money, forcing them to pay workers overtime and stopping them from running a 24-hour business.

“The petroleum industry is working in a different environment compared to other sectors,” the CEO of Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL), Nick Pattison, told the Times of Oman.

“We run 24-hour operations and we have excellent facilities during the summer months to protect our employees, such as cold rooms, short shifts, rehydration salts and showers.

“We have requested the Ministry of Manpower to consider exempting the petroleum industry from the afternoon summer break. It’s going to cost the industry millions of dollars every year if the petroleum sector does not get the exemption.”

But it’s a different story for the workers, most of whom feel it is “unfair” they should work in the scorching conditions to save costs.

They also say that any rights given to the construction industry should be extended to them, and if not, it is only natural that they should be compensated.

The energy sector in Oman currently employs around 4,000 workers, one fifth of which work on the rigs, pumping out oil and extracting gas from deep reservoirs.

In Dubai, the mandatory midday break for labourers who work outside during the summer months will start from June 15 this year, according to the Ministry of Labour.

But the oil and gas giants back up their argument for exemption by saying that the lost time will affect the production of oil and gas, and have a detrimental effect on Oman’s economy.

They say this is even more of an issue at a time when Oman is struggling to meet the local gas demand, and when an increasing number of projects and expansions are being streamlined.

At the moment Oman produces 870,000 barrels of oil a day and more than 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per annum.

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