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Le Mirage construction site

Peter Kovessy

Le Mirage construction site

Qatar’s annual summer midday outdoor work ban expired today despite the high humidity and temperatures above 40C across Doha, allowing employers to send their staff to construction sites during the hottest part of the day.

Between June 15 and Aug. 31, employees are prohibited from working outdoors between 11:30am and 3pm and cannot work for more than five hours in the morning.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Penny Yi Wang / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) spokesperson confirmed to Doha News that the ban was lifted today and that companies would not be sanctioned if their employees were working during the middle of the day.

But with the humidity making it feel closer to 55C at noon today, several construction firms said they were giving their employees more frequent and longer breaks, along with implementing other measures aimed at protecting the health of their workers.

That includes Linc, which provides facility management services at the Emiri Terminal at Hamad International Airport:

Construction sites

The Bin Mahmoud neighborhood of Doha is dotted with construction sites as new apartment buildings sprout up. Around 2pm this afternoon, however, several projects appeared relatively quiet and virtually void of construction workers.

Noura Park construction site.

Peter Kovessy

Noura Park construction site.

Shannon Engineering Co., which is leading the construction of a pair of residential buildings dubbed Noura Park, moved its day shift of approximately 340 workers into the shade during the hottest part of the day, according to health and safety officer Karlo Chavez.

Shannon Engineering's heat stress index.

Peter Kovessy

Shannon Engineering’s heat stress index.

Inside his office, he showed Doha News a heat stress chart that dictates the minimum amount of rest and water construction laborers should receive – and when work should stop entirely – depending on the temperature and humidity levels.

“We closely follow this index,” Chavez said. “We want to protect our people. We don’t want anyone getting heat stroke or (involved) in an accident.”

Additionally, he said the company provides its workers with ice and hydration powder for their water.

Several blocks over, work was in full swing at the Le Mirage construction site, where workers could be seen unloading materials from cranes.

Raafat El Hage, a manager at Challenger Trading and Contracting, said the company shortened its midday break from three hours to two today. However, he said the firm was considering a return to the three-hour stoppage if the hot temperatures persist throughout the week.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

El Hage said that every hour, workers receive a 10-minute break in the shade and were encouraged to drink water constantly. Anyone feeling ill should stop work immediately, he added.

“If someone feels like they need a break, they can take some time,” El Hage said.

This afternoon, a steady stream of workers clad in blue overalls could be seen leaving the site to refill their water bottles outside an adjacent mosque. Several confirmed to Doha News that they had received a two-hour break that day, but declined to discuss their working conditions in detail.

While some companies appear to be taking steps to protect their workers during the heat through reduced work hours and high-tech cooling gear, the practices are not universal.

In its 2013 report on Qatar’s construction sector, Amnesty International documented several cases of men collapsing or suffering heat stroke after working long summer shifts.

And earlier this year, at least 42 companies had their construction sites temporarily closed by MOLSA for flouting the midday outdoor work ban during the first month the restrictions were in place.

Thoughts?

For illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Nearly four dozen companies have had their construction sites temporarily closed for flouting the midday outdoor work ban, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has said.

In a statement on its Facebook page last night, MOLSA said that 42 of the 475 sites that were inspected since June 15 were observed in violation of the ban.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

During Qatar’s summer, temperatures regularly exceed 40C.

According to ministerial decree No. 16 for the year 2007, those who work outdoors or directly under the sun should only work for five hours during the day and should take a break from 11:30am until 3pm from June 15 until Aug. 31.

The law also states that the employer should post a notice outlining the daily working hours for its staff.

Early last month, MOLSA warned of penalties for companies whose workers were found on duty during the middle of the day, saying they could be closed for up to one month. It continued:

“Employers must place the working hours’ timetable at the work place, according to the decree. The timetable should be in a visible place where all workers can see and labor inspectors can easily notice during their inspection visits.”

MOLSA also listed a hotline for people to call in case they spot violations: 44241101.

Sweltering weather

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This year is set to be one of Qatar’s hottest on record.

While some companies have changed their employees’ working hours, workers can still be observed toiling outdoors during the sweltering afternoon hours at some construction sites.

To help them cope with the heat outside the restricted hours of the summer months, more construction companies have been exploring the idea of incorporating high-tech cooling gear into uniforms.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than 800 companies in Qatar have been banned from applying for government contracts or requesting warehouse units as punishment for breaching the state’s labor law, a government official has reportedly said.

In the first six months of the year, 807 firms have been temporarily blacklisted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), which also means that they are not permitted to hire any new staff while the penalty is in place, The Peninsula reports.

The ministry’s director of work relations Mohamed Al Meer reportedly told Al Sharq that the penalties are short-term and can be lifted once companies are seen to have conformed to the law.

No specific reasons as to how the Law No. 14 of 2004 was breached were given, but Al Meer said the violations included human rights-related issues as well as procedural ones, like not having a registered office for the company.

If a similar rate of companies are sanctioned during the remainder of this year, then the total number of blacklisted firms for 2015 would be significantly lower than in previous years.

Past crackdowns

In January 2013 for example, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced that it had blacklisted 2,400 companies and a further 1,200 individuals for failing to meet the standards of the state’s labor law during 2012.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Those firms had failed to provide or renew their employees’ residency permits, employed “runaway” workers, and/or refused to pay to send their workers home after their employment was finished, prompting some expats to stay and work in Qatar without the proper paperwork, the MOI said at the time.

It is not clear if the decrease in sanctions this year are due to more companies adhering to the law, or if enforcement has been stricter than in previous years.

Early last year, the MOI announced it was taking a tougher line on employers who hire undocumented staff.

The punishments include “blacklisting” offenders by not allowing them to recruit new employees for two years, while companies and individuals who allow their sponsored employers to work for others could be blacklisted for one year.

Thoughts?