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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Qatar closes 232 work sites in just one month for violating summer working hours

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Several companies continue to put their workers at risk despite strict laws to prevent heat stress.

Around 232 worksites have been closed by authorities for three days for violating a law that bans outdoor work during summer, Qatar’s ministry of labour has announced.

Per new legislation, staff are prohibited to work outside between 10am and 3:30pm starting from June 1 and up until September 15 every year.

This replaces earlier legislation issued in 2007 that set the prohibited outdoor summertime working hours from 11:30am to 3:00pm between June 15 until August 31.

However, despite strict laws to prevent heat stress, several private companies have continued to violate the legislation.

In the first month alone, authorities fined 98 companies and closed 232 worksites for a period of three days for not complying with the rules. Authorities added that most of the violating companies work in the contracting sector on different sites.

This means that hundreds of people were forced to carry out construction labour during temperatures that average around 41.2°C (106.2°F), or even more.

The companies were caught during an intensive inspection campaign organised by the ministry in June to ensure businesses adhere to necessary precautions set in place to protect workers from heat stress at open work sites.

“Within the framework of the intensive inspection campaigns carried out by inspectors during June on the companies’ worksites, the ministry closed (232) worksites in various regions of the country for violating the decision to set working hours in open work sites during the summer,” the ministry said in a tweet.

In addition, the new resolution states that all work must stop if the wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) rises beyond 32.1 °C at a particular workplace, regardless of the time. The index takes into consideration the ambient temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed.

Read also: Qatar introduces new law to protect workers from summer heat

This means that workers should not be allowed to work during extremely hot weather, even if it falls outside the set prohibited summertime hours.

Workers must also be provided with personal protective equipment suitable for hot weather, including light, loose-fitting clothing, and receive annual free medical examinations to diagnose and manage chronic diseases that may contribute to the risk of heat stress.

Air-conditioned spaces must also be provided for the workers’ comfort, in addition to setting rest periods at different times in order to protect them from the risk of heat stress.

The ministry called on all companies in various sectors to adhere to set hours during the summer season for work performed under the sun or in open outdoor workplaces.

Any violations can be reported through the ministry’s hotline number, 16008, or by accessing the unified complaint platform.

Labour reforms

In recent years, the government has been heavily engaged in implementing new laws and regulations to ensure workers’ safety ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Read also: Qatar takes action against 54 companies for violating summer labour hours

As part of the major labour reform agenda, Qatar has drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors, according to an announcement made by the Government Communications Office (GCO) earlier this year.

These labour reforms include the introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage and the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system.


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