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SCH issues heat stress guidelines

LANI ROSE R DIZON

DOHA

THE Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has issued the ‘Heat Stress Guidelines and Recommendations’ on Wednesday.

As per the guidelines, companies in Qatar must stop all outdoor activities when the heat index in the country reaches 54 (not to be confused with degree celsius) and above, as the extreme conditions would cause heat stroke or sunstroke.

The Occupational Health Section of the Department of Public Health at the SCH has compiled a list of guidelines and recommendations to address the rising heat stress cases in the country.

The recommendations are supported by the Ministry of Labour and must be implemented by all companies in Qatar.

Talking at the event, Dr Sheikh Mohammed al Thani, director of public health at the SCH, said, “Qatar’s extreme heat and humidity in summer months possess risks of developing heat related illnesses to the overseas workers.

Most of these expatriate workers are unskilled and are unlikely to know the preventive methods of heat stress when working outdoors.

The Ministry of Labour, under Law No.

14 of 2004, enforces that all labourers working in open areas under the sun during the summer (from June 15 to August 30) should stop working between 11.30am and 3pm.

This is one good intervention to protect workers from heat related illnesses.

However, this may not be enough.

We feel there is a need of national guidelines on heat stress prevention and management so that employers and supervisors can readily access and use it to protect their workers.” Al Thani said the recommendations which had been compiled into a booklet were a result of the previous workshop held by the stakeholders two years ago.

The booklet currently has translations in Arabic and English and will be translated into Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam and Bengali next year.

The guidelines include the risk factors for heat related illness, symptoms, first aid and emergency response to heat stress and recommendations for employers and workers.

The booklet also includes a heat stress index which companies may use to schedule work/rest period, water requirements and control measures for workers.

The guidelines state that clean and fresh water should be kept nearby for employees; shades should be easily accessible for workers and should be within three minutes of walking distance, and companies should establish policies on heat stress prevention and management among others.

The recommendations also include an acclimatisation programme for the new/regular employees coming back from vacation.

Companies should give their new employees enough time, four to 14 days, to be acclimatised to the hot weather in Qatar before releasing them to a full work shift and pace.

Dr Wasif M Alam, medical supervisor at the public health department at SCH, said, “We have our own inspectors who do routine check- ups and inspect the small, medium and large scale industries.

Now the guidelines will be added to the routine.

At the SCH, we do not enforce.

We can only give advice and guidelines.

If they don’t want to follow the guidelines and still want to do things the way they were doing before, we will report them to the Ministry of Labour.

And the Ministry of Labour has always told us that if we report, they will take serious action.

They have the right to warn these companies, suspend and take their licences.

So, we can implement the guidelines indirectly through the Ministry of Labour.”


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