Qatar: Study suggests heat mitigation strategies can allow workers to perform roles safely, despite extreme conditions

A study commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Qatari Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), recommends nine key areas where employers can take steps to guard their workers against heat stress. It found that with these effective measures in place, outdoor workers can safely perform their work in Qatar, despite extreme levels of heat and humidity.

The study was conducted over the summer of 2019 to examine the incidence of occupational heat stress in workers who undertake manual labour in Qatar. The study uses a comparative method, examining working conditions and heat stress incidence on a World Cup stadium construction site, where comprehensive heat management strategies were in place, with an agricultural farm where far fewer heat protections were implemented.

Recommendations made by the study  include adjusting the summertime working hours, mandatory heat stress mitigation plans for all companies across Qatar, annual health checkups for workers, as well as greater worker empowerment.

Houtan Homayounpour, Head of the ILO Project Office in Doha, said "we are working with the Government to translate the recommendations of this study into improved legislation, and to promote the replication of the good practices that were identified."

The nine key findings from the study outline practical steps employers can take to ensure effective heat management plans are in place and labourers are able to work safely.

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Company response
16 October 2019

FIFA Statement on the ILO study on heat stress in Qatar of 11 October 2019 and on an article in The Guardian on that same topic of 2 October 2019

Author: FIFA

The welfare and rights of workers associated with the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar are of paramount importance to FIFA and its partners... This includes the implementation of measures to prevent heat stress on FIFA World Cup sites...

FIFA was pleased to read that the study confirmed the effectiveness of the heat stress plans implemented by the Supreme Committee...

We urge the authorities to work with the ILO to ensure that the results of the heat stress study are translated into strengthened regulations...

FIFA continues to engage with the Supreme Committee and other parties towards ensuring respect for the rights and health of workers who are involved in FIFA World Cup-related activities.

Download the full document here

16 October 2019

Response to the Guardian newspaper

Author: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

The SC’s main contractors are required to put in place a comprehensive heat stress management plan that is reviewed and approved by the SC...

The SC investigates all non-work-related deaths and work-related fatalities in line with our Incident Investigation Procedure to identify contributory factors and establish how they could have been prevented...

The SC can confirm that Rup Chandra Rumba, a Nepalese national, died on 23 June 2019 in his accommodation. The cause of death was acute cardio-respiratory failure, due to natural causes.

Download the full document here

15 October 2019

Qatar's workers are at risk of heat stress for half the day during summer, finds UN

Author: Pete Pattisson, The Guardian (UK)

Nicholas McGeehan [of Fair/Square Projects, an organisation researching Gulf migrant workers] said the report was “a damning indictment of Qatar’s failure to protect outdoor workers”

McGeehan said that despite the report’s conclusions the ILO had played down the findings and had failed to demand urgent reforms from the Qatari authorities.

“The Qatari authorities must act on the findings of their own report. Any attempt to spin this report as evidence of good practice risks delaying government action, thereby putting more lives at risk,” [McGeehan] said.

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11 October 2019

Assessment of occupational heat strain and mitigation strategies in Qatar

Author: FAME Laboratory, University of Thessaly

[Summary of key findings and recommendations:

  1. The wet-bulb globe temperature (WGBT) index is a reliable basis on which employers can adapt their mitigation processes;
  2. Working hours of between 16.00 and 02.00 are optimum for decreasing risk of heat stress and insufficient sleep;
  3. There is no relationship between workers' ethnicity and susceptibility to heat stress; all workers should undergo proactive health checks to identify heat stress symptoms;
  4. 1 in 3 workers performed up to 5% of their job while hyperthermic. Heat mitigation plans supported by hydration strategies can reduce incidence of hyperthermia;
  5. Workers must be empowered to take breaks, and self-pace themselves to work at low intensity;
  6. Those working continuously in the shade outdoors can work safely provided their day is punctuated with regular breaks;
  7. Appropriate clothing and hydration were effective strategies for reducing heat stress;
  8. Providing workers with 750ml water on an hourly basis most effectively reduced dehydration, hyperthermia and labour effort; and
  9. When extensive heat mitigation strategies are in place, workers perceive their working conditions to be safer.]

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11 October 2019

Study identifies effective mitigation strategies to keep workers safe from heat stress

Author: International Labour Organization (ILO)

Outdoor workers in Qatar are able to perform their roles safely, despite the summer heat and humidity, if effective precautionary measures are in place. This is the key finding from a study commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC)...

The research examined a construction site with 4,000 workers (a World Cup stadium) with a comprehensive heat stress management plan, and a farm with fewer precautions in place. The research examined different strategies for mitigating heat strain, focusing on hydration, work-rest ratios and clothing.

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