A SURGE in the number of companies caught flouting a summer ban on outdoor work has been attributed to an intensified inspection campaign in Bahrain.
More than 120 firms are already facing prosecution for ignoring the rule this year, less than a month after it was enforced.
It is illegal to employ staff outdoors between midday and 4pm during July and August, but as of Monday 123 companies had been caught doing so.
That is well above the 89 violations recorded in total during both months last year. Most of the cases this year involved construction and manufacturing companies, with a total of 237 workers documented working outdoors during the height of Bahrain’s sweltering summer heat.
This was recorded during visits to 6,235 sites since July 1, a much higher inspection rate than last year – when a total of 7,491 sites were visited in July and August combined.
“We look at the increase (in cases) positively as it shows more penetration of the sites, exposing violations,” a senior labour official told the GDN on condition of anonymity.
“It also helped us realise there are still people, both employees and employers, who are unaware of the law and its purpose.
“Many among those prosecuted thought that the ban was restricted to construction sites only, which is not correct. The law applies to anyone who matches the definition of a worker in the law and is asked to work in an open area, whether directly in the sun or in the shade.”
Medical experts have warned people to take precautions as temperatures soar in Bahrain with the arrival of summer, when conditions are routinely above 40C.
However, those working outdoors are at an increased risk from potentially-deadly climate-related medical conditions, such as dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
“The number of violations were more in the Capital Governorate, mainly Manama and Seef, on high-rise construction buildings,” said the labour official.
“Some violations involved manufacturing company employees working on site, as well as maintenance workers – like air-conditioning mechanics – working in some suburban areas of Seef.
“These employees were unaware they were included in the ban, which was also the claim of their employers – who must now argue their innocence in court.”
Each violation incurs a fine ranging from BD500 to BD1,000.
Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan yesterday conducted surprise inspections at worksites across Bahrain to monitor implementation of the outdoor work ban.
He was accompanied Labour Affairs Assistant Under-Secretary Dr Mohammed Al Ansari and labour inspections manager and trade union director Ahmed Al Hayki.
“The ministry is satisfied with the level of implementation of the ban, with 98 per cent compliance,” Mr Humaidan said in a statement.
“The government is keen on the safety and health of its workers, which we believe makes Bahrain a worker-friendly country.
“The ban aims to protect workers, improve the work environment and ensure the safety of workers from hazards – especially in the hot and humid conditions in Bahrain during July and August.
“There will be no compromise on violations and all legal measures will be taken to punish those who risk workers’ safety. The working and living conditions of workers impacts heavily on their productivity and business profitability.”
However, Bahrain remains the only country in the GCC that restricts the ban to just two months in summer. Oman and Kuwait implement a three-month ban from June 1, while Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar do the same from June 15.
The GDN reported last month that the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry was studying the possibility of extending the outdoor work ban to three months, but nothing has so far materialised.