Even as two more weeks are left for the annual mid-day break for outdoor work to begin in the Sultanate of Oman, workers feel that the period is advanced in view of the scorching heat.
The three-month mid-day break, an initiative by the Ministry of Labour aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of workers, especially at construction sites, normally begins on June 1, suspending work between 12.30 pm and 3.30 pm till August 31.
Siraj Rahman, a worker engaged in the roofing work of a building in Ruwi, said, “I wish the break starts from the middle of this month as the temperature is rising day by day. We are getting exhausted very fast”.
Oman Meteorology in a statement, has already hinted at expectations of a rise in temperatures in some of the governorates in the coming days.
Siraj, among thousands of blue-collar workers who work outdoor ignoring the scorching sun to earn a livelihood, said that the last two years left with accrued debts following non-payment of loan instalments back in their home countries.
His colleague Abdul Heman said that he could not skip the work even for a day as he has an accumulated debt from the previous two years due to lack of work resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns and other measures.
“The loans back in my country have increased manifold due to non-payment in the last two years. So I cannot wait for the mid-day break or a drop in the temperature. I need to work”, he said.
Opening of activities now gives us hope for a new start of earning and livelihood, he added.
“We spent the last two years in a very bad state, so we are happy that there is enough work. But we wish that the break is advanced so that we could escape the heat during its peak hours”, said Narasaiah, another worker.
EXPATS IN CONSTRUCTION SECTOR
According to a report from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, the number of expatriates in the construction sector stood at 373,184, compared to 353,584 workers at the end of 2021.
The mid-day break calls for strict regulation and prohibition of work for blue-collar workers in the heat from 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm. Many companies comply with this humanitarian rule, but there are a few who do not follow it and often face heavy fines from authorities.
Under Article 16 of Ministerial Decision No 286/2008, outdoor workers in Oman are banned from working in high temperatures during the summer months. Working hours are usually split between two shifts, in accordance with the mid-day break hours.