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Sat 1 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

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The key to keeping sites healthy

Rigorous enforcement of new laws will ensure the industry is healthy in both body and mind.

As the saying goes: ‘healthy body, healthy mind', and this is especially important if you are a construction worker in the UAE.

Sitting in an office listening to the hum of air conditioning is one thing, but working 50 storeys off the ground while operating a hammer drill in the middle of the summer requires a little more mental and physical concentration.

As the midday working ban reaches its conclusion for another year, it is interesting to witness the downwards trend in heat-related illness among the construction workforce.

While hospitals are reporting a reduction of admissions during the months of July and August, contractors and developers have also come forward with their own ways of keeping their workforce healthy in the searing summer heat.

Dubai Silicon Oasis is set to introduce on-site first aid centres, signs at the Dubai Airport expansion tell workers to ‘keep hydrated', and Al Futtaim Carillion has actually rolled out the provision of specialist rehydration drinks during the hot months, as well as labour camp medical facilities.

But how has this seemingly positive shift occurred? After all, this is the third year that the Ministry of Labour has imposed such a ban and workers' health has always been high on the agenda with the local press.

The key is implementation. As the authorities actually get tough and punish those violating the law, it has a ripple effect to the rest of the industry, and stimulates best practice among contractors.

While it is ultimately the responsibility of individual companies to safeguard their labour force, a set of tough, enforced regulations lets everyone know where they stand.

Another regulation set to break out later this year is the new Labour Law, which has been in consultation since February.

Among the provisions set out by the Ministry of Labour is the development of compulsory medical insurance - borne by the employer - and the provision of medical facilities for workers.

Any new laws improving the lot of Dubai's construction workforce are welcome, but in the long run it is the rigorous implementation and enforcement of these provisions that will ensure that the industry is healthy in both body and mind.

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