Heat stress research to benefit workers and companies in Qatar
Groundbreaking research to measure the impact of heat stress on workers’ health and productivity is underway on worksites in Qatar by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC).
The study will be carried out independently by heat stress research experts FAME Lab from the University of Thessaly in Greece, and will help inform strategies at enterprise level to manage and mitigate the risk of heat stress, as well as provide recommendations on how legislation in this area may be improved.
In Qatar outdoor work between 11:30am and 3:00pm from 15 June to 31 August each year is prohibited. During the summer months, companies also introduce additional measures to protect workers from heat strain through tailored heat stress management plans. However, it is well established that heat, humidity and solar radiation can also pose a hazard outside of those times and dates, and that implementation of heat stress management plans is inconsistent across entities.
“We will not compromise the safety of workers, and given the geography of our country this study is of utmost importance for us. We must consider how enterprises can remain both safe and productive during the hottest months,” said Mohammad Al Obaidly, Assistant Undersecretary of ADLSA. He added that, “The study will also lead to concrete recommendations on how the law can be improved, as well as compliance and enforcement.”
A meta-analysis of studies conducted worldwide on heat stress has been carried out by FAME Lab and was presented at the 3rd International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health held in Doha in April 2019. The analysis fed into the research design which will see several heat stress mitigation strategies tested during the two-month study using physiological measurements, environmental factors and task analysis.
Gathering data through telemetric systems
“There are diverging opinions on how best to cope in the heat, but this study will definitively advise on the amount of water workers need to drink, the ratio of work to rest during a shift, and optimal clothing to minimize the effects of heat here in Qatar,” said Houtan Homayounpour, Head of the Project Office of the ILO in Qatar.
This study will focus on the construction and landscaping sectors with research taking place at locations including Al Rayyan Stadium, one of the SC’s World Cup sites. The SC has a robust approach to heat stress management, including the deployment of cooling technology throughout its sites. This research is expected to enhance the SC’s existing efforts, and equip them with the data needed to introduce new measures and improvements.
Mahmoud Qutub, Executive Director of Workers’ Welfare at the SC further emphasized the importance of the study, saying, “The SC continually strives to ensure our workers’ safety, and we welcome this study as a further element within a wider heat stress approach we have been developing over the years. The findings of the research taking place on our site will further enhance this approach, which we hope will create a lasting legacy for our workers and beyond.”
The study will run throughout the months of July and August, and enhancements are expected to be implemented across the country as early as summer 2019. Additional guidance on heat stress mitigation, aimed at workers and employers, has been shared by ADLSA online and through social media channels.