Heat puts their life at risk of death… The Egyptian Center calls for tightening the measures to protect workers from the effects of occupational heat exhaustion
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Heat puts their life at risk of death… The Egyptian Center calls for tightening the measures to protect workers from the effects of occupational heat exhaustion

Egypt faces a severe heatwave that strikes all its regions, especially during the current month of July which was classified by The Egyptian General Meteorological Authority (EGM) as the hottest, due to global warming. Workers lack enough protection from these effects, especially for those who work directly under sunlight or during hot weather in their workplaces which make them vulnerable to heat stress and exhaustion which pose a threat to occupational health and limits workers’ physical capabilities, functions, and even their ability to work

Heat stress refers to a higher temperature surrounding a person than the limit he can bear, which exposes his life to many dangers, such as skin rashes, dehydration, muscle spasms, heat exhaustion, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, as well as loss of consciousness, and others.

International Labor Organization called for exerting more efforts to design, finance and implement national policies to address the risks of occupational heat stress and protect workers, including adequate infrastructure, improving early warning systems for heat waves, together with improving the implementation of international labor standards, such as occupational health and safety standards to help in designing policies that address risks resulting from high temperatures. World Meteorological Organization published initial data which showed that July is the ever-hottest month this year. In addition, The Egyptian General Meteorological Authority (EGM) warned of the dangers of direct exposure to sunlight during this period, to prevent burns, and others.

Despite the aforementioned, workers in several vital sectors still lack occupational safety standards to protect them from risks of heatstroke, on the top cleaners, construction workers, bricklayers, transport workers, miners, quarry workers, drilling workers, furnaces’ workers, ports’ workers, freight and unloading workers, farmers, and delivery workers.

according to academic study, the “maximum” temperature that a healthy human could bear for several hours is around 30°C and 31°C in warm, humid environments.

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00738.2021

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) affirms that, despite these obvious evidences regarding the devastating health impact of exposure to extreme heat, the continued failure to provide workers with means of protection from heatstroke may expose them to grave risks, which may reach death.

Decree No.211 of 2003 on Safety levels, precautions and terms to prevent detrimental physical, chemical, biological and mechanical hazards and securing the work environment, issued by Minister of Man-power & immigration, specified permissible heat exposure limits in workplaces, and the rest period imposed from 25% to 75% of the work period, according to the workload, and according to estimated temperatures from 25 to 32 degrees Celsius.

Moreover, the Decree classified workload to three grades.  Light: refers to working on machines whether standing or sitting or doing light manual work. Medium: refers to walking while doing light works or with pushing and pulling. Strenuous: refers to digging and loading works or ascending with weights.

The Guide to Fundamental Principles of Occupational Health and Safety issued by the International Labour Organization, identified ways to prevent heatstroke, in a number of procedures that included: (The evaluation of temperatures in the work environment and periodic measurements, providing places with a suitable atmosphere for workers to spend rest periods. Moreover, raising health awareness for workers and the need to provide drinking water, and following methods of engineering control in industrial processes, aeration and local cooling, together with reducing water vapor leakage into the work atmosphere. Controlling humidity, and conducting initial and periodic medical examinations for workers exposed to high temperatures.)

While negative effects resulted from high temperature continue, especially in workplaces, workers still do not enjoy sufficient protection from these effects, given the work conditions that may not offer them protection. Thus, there is a necessity of applying the relevant guidelines that impose measures that would protect them from the effects of high temperature.

Pursuant to the provisions of Article No.208 of Labor Law No.12 of 2003, according to its latest amendments, the establishment and its branches shall provide the means of vocational safety and health and ensuring labour environment security in places of work by which to, ensure protection from physical, risks resulting from heat stress, and others.

The Egyptian Center calls on the responsible authorities, on its top; the Supreme Council for Vocational Safety and Health and Securing the Work Environment, and the National Center for Industrial Security Studies, stressed the necessity of developing central plans in the field of occupational safety and health and securing the work environment in light of the recent changes, and following up on their implementation in coordination with the concerned agencies. Moreover, Occupational Safety and Health Inspection Authority calls on tightening control and inspection procedures on establishments that do not comply with these standards, and dealing with violations decisively, in order to protect the workers’ life.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights recommends the need to adhere granting workers break periods stipulated in Decree No.211 of 2003, together with updating the tables of permissible heat exposure limits which reached a maximum limit of 32 degrees Celsius in the Decree after current temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius at the present time.

 

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