Even as the Ministry of Labour is set to roll out a campaign against the dangers of heat stress as part of the mid-day work break, the rise in the temperature has prompted health experts to issue a sound of caution.
The mid-day break, announced by the ministry every year in accordance with Article 16 of the Oman Labour Law for occupational safety and health regulations, obligates companies and institutions that have work sites under direct sunlight to stop work between 12:30 to 3:30 pm during the months of June, July and August.
"The ministry will work to complete efforts to activate the heat stress campaign this year and stop work between 12:30 to 3:30 pm during the months on a daily basis in the open places that can expose workers to the dangers of the hot sun", Shaikh Nasr bin Amer al Hosni, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour for Labour, said at the Heat Stress Forum for 2022.
The ministry has called on company owners not to violate the provisions of the decision and the necessity of implementing it in order to preserve the safety and health of workers during the summer period, while warning that legal measures will be taken against violations.
Speaking to the Observer, an official at the ministry said that the inspection teams will conduct field visits to the work sites to ensure compliance with the provisions of the decision in the coming months.
“The mid-day break implementation stems from the ministry's keenness to ensure the health and safety of workers in the work environment, taking into account the provision of work equipment with the best standards of occupational safety and health”, he said.
As the temperature is forecast to reach 50°C in parts of Oman, health experts said that work involving excessive heat exposure is a serious health hazard and can lead to various problems, ranging from physical discomfort to life threatening conditions.
But with temperatures verging on 40°C forecast for the rest of the week, heat-related health problems still pose a very real hazard for the workers, many of whom are required to work long hours outside in heavy clothing.
According to Dr Shashiraj Eswarappa, Medical Superintendent and Consultant in Internal Medicine at Kims Oman Hospital Muscat, it is imperative for workers to take precautions when working outside in the sweltering heat.
“Worsening heat waves pose a serious threat, but illnesses from them are entirely preventable if proper measures are in place. The most serious health and safety concern is heat stroke”, he said.
Excessive physical activities under the direct sun can lead to loss of large amounts of salt and water. Sunstroke occurs when the body is unable to control the temperature, he said.
To prevent heat-related illnesses, Dr Shashiraj advised all people to wear loose clothing, drink enough water, stay under a shade, avoid physical exertion outdoors and to frequently shower to keep the body cool.
People who are less immune to including the elderly, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems and heart conditions also need to be cautious before stepping out during the summer, he added.