As temperatures begin to soar across the Gulf region, Qatar has adopted new rules providing further protection to workers from heat stress.
A Ministerial Decision announced on 26 May 2021 introduces a significant expansion of summertime working hours during which outdoor work is prohibited.
Under the new rules which come into force immediately, workers cannot work outside between 10:00 and 15:30 from 1 June to 15 September. This replaces legislation from 2007, that prohibited work in outdoor workspaces from 11:30 to 15:00, between 15 June and 31 August.
In addition, regardless of the time, all work must stop if the wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) rises beyond 32.1 °C in a particular workplace. The WBGT index takes into consideration ambient temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed.
“We are confident that the measures the new Ministerial Decision introduces will help further mitigate the risk of heat stress for workers, which is our health and safety priority during the summer months,” said Mohammed Al Obaidly, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA).
The new measures also introduce requirements for annual health checks for workers, as well as mandatory risk assessments to be prepared by enterprises.
“The new Ministerial Decision is an example of evidence-based policy-making, drawing on field research on the environmental conditions and the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies” said Max Tuñón, from the ILO Project Office in Doha.
Mitigation strategies can keep workers safe from heat stress
In 2019, the world’s largest study into heat stress was carried out in Qatar, by ADLSA, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. Throughout the summer of the same year, the FAME Lab from the University of Thessaly, Greece, a leading institution in this field, was commissioned to collect data on workers’ health and work intensity, covering more than 5,500 work hours.
Video interview with Dr Andreas Flouris, Director of the FAME Laboratory and Associate Professor at the Department of Exercise Science of the University of Thessaly presenting the main results of the research on heat stress in Qatar.
Representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations welcomed the new legislation.
“The occupational safety and health of all workers is a priority for employers. We support measures to mitigate the risk of heat stress among workers, ensuring protection and proper working conditions for everyone. And we hope that these new tools and regulations provide the necessary clarity to employers to prevent such incidents”, said Roberto Suárez, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).
“We welcome this new legislation and commend the Government of Qatar for its continued efforts to protect workers’ health and safety at work,” said Sharon Barrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). “With climate change negatively impacting workers worldwide, we should expect more countries to adopt heat stress legislation in the near future.”
In order to ensure awareness of this legislation, labour inspectors are providing advice to employers and workers on outdoor working hours as well as actively enforcing the new measures. Guidance to help enterprises implement the new rules is available as are information materials in various languages for workers.