THE Public Works Authority (Ashghal) has made it clear that it will ensure that its work sites conform to summer working hours.
An official, who did not want to be named, was reacting to a notification by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs regulating open-air working hours of workers during the summer months.
The ministry has directed companies that workers should not be made to work in open workplaces for more than five hours in the morning and the work should be stopped between 11.30am and 3pm.
This has been made mandatory because of the ministry’s concern for the welfare of workers and the realisation that exposing them to the scorching sun of the mid-day could be highly dangerous and counter-productive.
Yesterday’s peak temperature, for instance, was 46C in the shade. Doctors have warned that exposure to such burning heat for long hours could cause sun burn, heat stroke, exhaustion, dehydration and other problems, some of which could be life-threatening.
The official said it was the responsibility of public and private sector companies to ensure that all government directives were adhered to by everyone.
However, he added that it was the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, not Ashghal’s, to implement the rule.
Nonetheless, its inspectors would be monitoring the work sites regularly to make sure that contractors did not contravene any rules of the land, the official said.
The official did not give a direct answer when asked what action might be taken if a contractor violated the rule, saying everyone must comply with the ‘day-break’ rule.
Ashghal, which is engaged in developing the country’s infrastructure, currently has billions of riyals worth of projects under construction. They include highways, flyovers, hospitals, schools, ports and mosques.
These are not directly done by Ashghal but carried out by contractors, who employ thousands of workers.
Despite the ministry directive, work continues non-stop on many projects as a mid-day tour of the city would reveal. Workers continue toiling in the mid-day heat, be it on top of buildings or on ground.
A private contractor, who did not want to be named, said it was not always possible to stop work because of the tight work schedule. “The time given to complete a work is always the minimum. We can meet the schedule only if the work is carried out throughout the day. If we delay the delivery of a project, there will be penalties,” he said.
“We totally agree with the regulation and empathise with the workers. We know it is absolutely inhuman to expose the workers to such conditions. But, what do we do,” the contractor asked.
He said he tried to minimise the risks by providing them with cold drinks and salt tablets.
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