Lack of mandated rest areas lead workers to find relief under lorries

Workers say a lack of proper rest areas on building sites leads them to take risks to escape the heat in their midday breaks.

Mohammed Yousuf, 35, a Bangladeshi fire safety officer, says it dangerous to sleep under a lorry during the break hours. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Workers say a lack of proper rest areas on building sites leads them to take risks to escape the heat in their midday breaks.

Last week an Asian worker was run over by a paving lorry as he napped on a site in Ras Al Khaimah.

He was sleeping in front of the parked vehicle when the operator started it up and ran over him. He died instantly.

Workers say that sleeping under parked lorries is common.

“We are poor workers who don’t have options if the company doesn’t provide transport to their camps or rest areas at midday,” said Mohamed Yousuf, 35, a Bangladeshi fire safety officer.

“Sometimes I find some of our colleagues and other workers taking shelter under the parked construction lorries on site.

“They make such dangerous decisions to avoid the sunshine, particularly when it’s at its peak. Nobody can stay for long during that time. It’s very hot.”

Labourers are back in the heat after a two-day Eid Al Fitr holiday, but midday breaks are scheduled to continue until September 15.

The Ministry of Labour requires a break from 12.30pm to 3pm for all labourers who work outside. Employers must provide shaded areas and workers must down tools.

Most labourers stay at their sites and seek shade under nearby trees, unfinished walls and parked vehicles.

Companies drive their workers to and from work, but few take them back to accommodations during the break.

“We find some shade to hide in beside trucks and lie down. I have seen many sleeping under trucks,” said Ramesh Das, 45, from India.

“The biggest problem is of not having a rest area there. There is no place to rest on site when you talk about having a nap.”

Mr Yousuf, who has lived in the UAE for seven years, said: “If the company provides an area to take a rest it would be good, or at least transport us back during the break.

“We get the midday break but we don’t come back to our accommodation as no transport is provided. We just find some shaded trees or places to cool off from the scorching hot summer.”

He said he had not heard about the worker in RAK but he did not feel that his company cared for his safety.

“If I died they will bring another 10 workers. Who cares for us?”

Some more fortunate workers have accommodations that are close by.

“I stay at the site or go to my accommodation, which is near the site,” said Bakhta Bahadur Kandh, 24, from Nepal.

Mr Kandh earns Dh800 a month as an unskilled labourer.

Some workers do not get a midday break because they start at 3pm and work until 1am.

“Our company has changed the work timings entirely during summer,” said Mohammed Farouq, 24, an insulator from Bangladesh. “We work from 3pm to 1am every day, including two hours overtime every day.”