DUBAI, May 30 — Medical experts in the UAE have welcomed the night-shift proposal for construction workers, commending it a positive step to help the poor workers most vulnerable to heat exhaustion to protect themselves from heatstroke and heat-related ailments during the peak summer months.
A number of physicians pointed out that the proposal, if implemented, would help workers increase their productivity and performance during the hot summer months and reduce the heatstroke cases, that is currently on the rise since the onset of summer.
Dr Muhammed Iqbal of Muhammed Iqbal’s Homeopathic Clinic in Karama, said: “The night-only shift is a timely proposal which would help the workers escape the daytime heat. I think the labourers will lose body fluids if they are forced to work in the heat, which will also pose health hazards later on. If the workers can stay indoors during the day and work in the night, it would be great for them to protect them from heat exhaustion.”
However, he pointed out that if the night-only shift is introduced, the workers should take some necessary safety precautions, and the companies should provide enough lights to help carry out construction activities efficiently.
Dr Venu, another general physician in Dubai, said: “The body loses important fluids if major labour is carried out in the intense heat during the daytime. The night shifts will help workers escape the heat and keep the performance level high. Working in a night shift does not at all affect productivity as long as the worker does not work more than eight hours. The worker should take a break of 16 hours, but the night shift is better for workers only for a few months,” he added.
He pointed out that for labourers to be saved from working in the intense heat, night shift is definitely important, but it should be kept in mind that it is impossible for the circadian rhythm to fully adjust to a night shift schedule, no matter how long such work is performed.
Man cannot physiologically adapt completely to night work. Dr Najeeb, a general physician in Deira, said: “A human being is made to stay awake during the day, and rest during the night, but because the UAE has indeed very intense heat in summer, workers could perform better during the night. There is disruption of normal life, but if the shifts are rotated continuously every two weeks, then performance will not be affected.”
General physician Dr Salman Siddique said: “Most labourers in the UAE suffer from heat exhaustion and dizziness, especially when they return from leave, or report back to work after a break. The human body can tolerate high temperatures because the body gets adjusted after a while. Therefore, labourers can manage to tolerate the intense heat of the UAE, but there is a need to prevent hard labour during the hot months.”
Dr Ali Al Harjan, a psychiatrist, said: “Even labourers need a break from the day heat, but the break should not be more than three months, otherwise the sleep patterns are disturbed, which could lead to insomnia or hypersomnia. But as long as they work eight hours during the night shift and get enough rest during the day, it would make no difference to their productivity. In fact, productivity can increase.”
Taking cognisance of the increasing number of heatstroke cases, Dr Hussain Al Rahma, Head of ECC Department and Medical Director, Dohms Training Centre, was quoted by a local daily of having urged people, particularly labourers, to avoid toiling during peak hours in the afternoon. “The temperature is rising and will become unbearable soon. Thus, workers should take precautionary measures,” he said, adding further that Rashid Hospital receives 6 to 7 cases per day on an average with heat-related problems.