UAE: Midday Break Rule Violations - 34% Fines Up


Midday break fines up 34%

ABU DHABI - AUG 06: Ras al Khaimah had the most violations of the midday-break-rule in July, while Sharjah had the fewest, the Ministry of Labour said yesterday.

Ministry inspectors made more than 36,000 visits to worksites across the country last month, stepping up their checks from last year, when they made 55,000 visits during the two-month period in which the requirement for a midday break is in effect.

The rule is in place to give construction workers relief from the sun during the hottest period of the year.

Last month, 335 companies were fined, compared with 249 in July 2008. However, the percentage of violations in most emirates was no more than one per cent in both periods.

The regulation, which is in effect throughout July and August, requires employers nationwide to grant workers on construction sites a break from 12.30pm to 3pm.

Only 37 of the 335 companies fined in July had paid the penalties, according to ministry figures released yesterday.

Sharjah had the lowest number of violators, 11, which accounted for 0.1 per cent of work sites inspected in that emirate.

Ras al Khaimah had the most violations, 85, which amounted to one per cent of the emirate’s inspections.

Two per cent of companies inspected in Fujairah and Ajman had failed to give their workers the break. In Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Um al Qaiwain, one per cent of inspected sites were fined.

Mr bin Demas stressed last month that the ministry had zero tolerance for violators.

For a first offence the employer is fined Dh10,000 (US$2,700) and is banned from obtaining new labour permits for three months.

For a second offence the punishment is doubled to a Dh20,000 fine and a six-month ban on permits.

For a third offence, the company is fined Dh30,000 and is barred from obtaining new work permits for one year.

The ministry said that at least 4,389 of July’s visits were purely educational: inspectors went to work sites between 10am and 12.30pm to discuss with workers and employers the need for complying with the break rule to avoid potentially fatal heat exhaustion among workers.

Although nearly all companies abided by the requirement, many failed to provide suitable shelters for their workers to use during breaks.

During recent visits to a number of construction sites in Dubai, workers on break were seen lying on cardboard and plywood.

Workers clad in green and blue overalls are also frequently seen resting in public parks in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Humaid bin Demas, the ministry’s acting director general, said last month that none of the fines was issued for a failure to provide break shelters. He said, however, that the ruling stipulates that companies provide shelters.

The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Labour jointly launched a campaign in May called “Summer in the Heat”, giving companies more than a month to introduce their workers to educational material on the dangers of overheating.

The material was the result of two years of research by international experts on construction sites in the emirate. They examined a number of factors affecting workers, measuring hydration, heart rate and temperature three times a day for 12 days.

In addition to break time and suitable shelter, the rule requires that daily work schedules be posted in public spaces in Arabic and a language understood by the workers.

Employers are also to provide equipment to protect workers from occupational hazards.

The midday break was introduced in 2005 as a four-hour rest period, but this was reduced to two and a half hours the following year.

Last year, officials said 99 per cent of companies were abiding by the regulations, compared with 75 per cent when the break was introduced.

Hospitals have reported that they had received scores of workers suffering from heat exhaustion, despite the compulsory break.

Ibrahim Abdullah Hospital in Ras al Khaimah has received up to 120 cases of heat exhaustion since the start of July, including 22 in a single day, doctors said. Since the end of June, the hospital treated at least 179 patients for heat exhaustion.

One official at the hospital said the staff were “concerned about these big increases”, urging residents to avoid the sun during peak hours.

The official said heat exhaustion was seen both in labourers and in others who worked in the open. Dr Yousef al Serkal, the director of Kuwaiti Hospital in Sharjah, said his hospital received eight to 10 cases of heat exhaustion daily, down from last year’s 15 to 20 cases per day.

But the hospital said that not all the cases of heat exhaustion were a result of companies violating the midday break requirement.

Inspectors shut 65 food outlets over hygiene

DUBAI - AUG 06: Sixty-five food outlets were shut down by Dubai Municipality in the first half of the year because of food safety violations, officials said yesterday.

Inspectors who visited the outlets found food being served uncooked, food left out at room temperature, untrained managers and staff, and poor personal hygiene, including workers failing to wash their hands.

The offenders included cafes, restaurants, canteens and grocery stores.

Around 4,600 cases were recorded, with 65 so serious that they led to premises being temporarily closed, the Food Control department said.

This week, it set up a special nine-member team including food study experts, food officials and inspectors to address food safety.

The issue was highlighted recently by the deaths of four children in cases linked to food poisoning.

Khalid al Awadhi, the head of the department, said there were many options available to inspectors before they had to close a restaurant.

“We evaluate the severity and the extent of the violation before deciding to close a restaurant, which is the last resort,” he said.

“There are violations that are known to contribute directly to food-borne illnesses or disease.

“Such violations need to be corrected at the time of inspections. Failure to correct a critical violation at the time of inspection will result in an automatic failure of inspection and/or immediate closing of the establishment or other enforcement actions.”

The outlets are allowed to reopen once the violations are put right.

The new team has been formed to focus on educating offenders rather than shutting them down.

It has drawn up a checklist of 25 possible violations. Businesses that fail inspections will be given three days to rectify the problem; repeat violations will result in temporary closure and financial penalties.

Restaurants responsible for violations that could directly affect the health of customers would be immediately closed, said Bobby Krishna, a senior food studies officer with the department who is a member of the special team.

“As per the new method adopted by the special team, we would work with food outlets to solve their defects and help them reopen in a safer environment,” he said.

“We realise that we need to give time and assistance to offenders to correct themselves.

“We will hold meetings with eatery owners and discuss what led to their closure.

“We will support the unit to rectify their problem, as educating businessmen and the public is the only way to tackle this problem.”

Spoiled food was blamed for the deaths of Nathan and Chelsea D’Souza, aged five and eight, who died in Dubai in June after becoming ill following a takeaway meal from a Chinese restaurant.

Also in June, the death of Marwa Faisal, four, from Sharjah, was attributed to food poisoning, as was the death of two-year-old Rishad Pranav in Dubai last month.

Dubai Municipality said it had recorded cases 60 cases of food poisoning this year. Of these, 40 involved the victim eating at home.

It is initiating several awareness drives to educate the public as well as businesses.

This week, the municipality urged all restaurants to issue advisory notes with takeaways and restaurant “doggy bags”.

Advisory tags prepared by the municipality stating the date, time and information on the handling of food should be used, officials said. Another public awareness drive is being planned to begin by Ramadan.

“The public, staff employed in food outlets, shoppers in malls, housewives and children will be educated about healthy eating habits and dealing with items safely in this campaign,” said Mr al Awadhi.

Posters and pamphlets containing food safety tips and handling methods will be distributed in eateries and other outlets.

The municipality held an information session this week with chefs and hygiene managers from 50 of Dubai’s hotels to educate them on food handling. It intends to hold the sessions on a regular basis.

“We discussed the recent food poisoning issues and the problems we face in ensuring food safety,” said Chef Muthu, corporate chef for the Lotus Group of Hotels in Dubai.

“These sessions are very useful as they educate and inform us on what is expected.”

Dubai starts switch to clearer taxi plates

The new black-on-yellow plates are aimed at making it easier for riders to read taxis’ numbers, officials say. Courtesy The RTA

DUBAI - AUG 06: All the city’s taxis will be fitted with new number plates after an order issued by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday.

The move comes after the RTA received complaints from motorists and passengers who claimed they could not decipher the number plates when they needed to report them to authorities.

The new plates, which will be mandatory on all taxis in the emirate by January 2010, will bear black numbers on a yellow background, as opposed to the current white numbers on a black background.

Some 10,360 number plates have been produced by the Marine Agency in the run up to their introduction with started on Tuesday.

The RTA uses German technology to produce the plates, which are made of aluminium. The yellow paint is also reflective.

Ahmed Hashim Bahrozyan, the chief executive of the RTA’s Licensing Agency, said the authority intended to add more colours to the taxi fleets. “The change is also in response to customer wishes who complained from the vague plates at certain times, particularly at night,” he added.

The city’s five taxi companies have until the end of the year to install the new plates, said Mr Bahrozyan. However he added that he expected them all to do so this month.

The Dubai Taxi Corporation started installing the plates yesterday. It expects to have its whole fleet of 3,503 vehicles complete in two weeks, with 250 sets of plates fitted every day.

Adil Mohammed, from Pakistan, who has been driving in Dubai for a year, said it would not make any difference to his fares.

“I don’t think it will attract customers but maybe it will be easier for speed cameras to spot us,” he said.

Hospitals warned on reporting swine flu

UAE - AUG 06: The UAE’s efforts to combat swine flu will not succeed unless public and private hospitals report every confirmed infection, a regional adviser at the World Health Organisation said yesterday.

That assessment came on the heels of a warning this week of legal action against hospitals and clinics that do not diligently report cases of H1N1 infection.


Tracking the spread of the swine flu virus is essential to ensuring that the UAE and the region have a clear picture of the pandemic’s development and, therefore, where to focus resources, said Dr Hassan el Bushra, the regional adviser on surveillance, forecasting and response at the regional office of the WHO.

Dr el Bushra reiterated this week’s message from the Ministry of Health warning private hospitals to co-operate with all reporting and treatment regulations.


“In some countries, the private sector is very strong, with more than 70 per cent of people being treated there,” Dr el Bushra said.

“That’s why it is so important to always get data from the private sector, particularly on things such as the H1N1 virus.

“This is often governed by national public health laws. They refer to certain notifiable diseases that have to be reported; otherwise it will be a problem for the institution itself and the country.”

He said that proper disease monitoring allowed health officials to spot any sudden increases in the occurrence of a disease and take action.

Monitoring “allows people to locate cases and find out where they are coming from and also identify those who are at risk”, he said.

“There is no country where the reporting is 100 per cent, but we are aware of that.”

Diligent reporting of cases by hospitals and clinics gives public health officials a fighting chance, he said.


This week, the ministry said hospitals and clinics faced legal action if they did not abide by federal laws concerning pandemics.

Dr Ali bin Shakar, the director general of the ministry and chairman of the committee managing the response to swine flu, did not respond to queries about the specifics of the law.

The ministry also declined to say whether any hospitals had been found to be in violation of laws relating to pandemics, either by not reporting confirmed cases or by refusing to treat people.


It was reported in Qatar this week that a local man died of the H1N1 virus in a hospital in Doha. The reports said he had been in Dubai the previous week and had visited a hospital twice but that his infection was not diagnosed.

The warning from the ministry and the H1N1 supervisory committee followed a meeting to discuss the measures being taken in the country to prevent the virus spreading.

The advisory, released by the state news agency, WAM, said “the ministry will take legal actions against any healthcare institution if it failed to fall in line with the ministerial directives as per the Federal Law No. 270/1981 pertaining to prevention of epidemics”.


The warning has caused some confusion among officials at private hospitals, who said the directions were unclear and could lead to a misdirection of resources.

The managing director of a large private hospital group said he was not aware of the ministry warning and would like to know more about the law.

“Old laws often came out in Arabic and were given to someone at a hospital who put them in a file; they were not seen by anybody after that,” he said.


“I am aware of certain rules relating to pandemics and communicable diseases, especially notifying and reporting cases, which takes time.”

He said he would be surprised to hear that a hospital or clinic had not reported a case of swine flu, unless it feared being reprimanded for not handling the case properly.

“I actually think, at the moment, people would like to be caught up in the excitement of it,” he said.


“[But] it’s no longer exciting when you are overburdened by 600 flu cases.”

A doctor in a private clinic said she was concerned the warning would either make private hospitals more reluctant to deal with suspected H1N1 cases or focus too much on the virus.

“I am not aware of the law myself, but it is a bit worrying to hear legal action being mentioned,” she said.

“This is a new situation for a lot of countries to deal with, and I think people are doing their best to manage it. So far, I thought it was working, but maybe it is not.


“If people are scared of legal action, they might be too keen to diagnose, in case they miss something.

“Or there is a risk that they might not want to deal with any of the virus cases at all. I think many places will keep doing what they are doing, though.”

According to the ministry, the UAE has had about 200 confirmed cases of H1N1 infection.

The figure includes 65 patients who were released from hospitals last week after treatment. Fifty-five patients were still receiving treatment.


Top Stories

Leave a Comment

Title: UAE: Midday Break Rule Violations - 34% Fines Up

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.