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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Working conditions during high temperatures under the spotlight ]

Working conditions during high temperatures under the spotlight

Author: 
Charles Charalambous

THE LABOUR Ministry will commission a detailed study that will determine the specifics that need to be taken into account for working outdoors in high temperatures, Labour Minister Sotiroulla Charalambous said yesterday.

The ministry’s aim is to provide a reliable scientific measure within the legal framework for issuing advice to employers during heatwave conditions but it will take at least a year to compile the data and produce the conclusions

“There is no specialised study at the moment, and on the basis of the study we are proposing, which we consider to completely necessary, we will go ahead and take further steps in terms of making more specific the framework within which the decision to issue advisories on stopping work is taken”, Charalambous said.

She added that as the law stands, an employer who obliges his employees to work in dangerously high temperatures does not face the risk of being prosecuted and fined, although labour inspectors have the power to bring prosecutions under more general health and safety legislation.

Charalambous said that this is the reason why currently the Labour Ministry only issues advisories rather than ministerial orders banning outdoor work in a heatwave.

The minister said that – following an agreement reached with the employers’ organisations and the unions – her ministry has submitted a funding proposal for a detailed study to the Research Promotion Foundation (RPF), with the aim of being able to lay down parameters for working outdoors in high temperatures, including specific safety measures.

Labour Inspection Department senior official Anastasios Yiannaki told the Mail that the study is needed to provide a firm basis for incorporating work in extreme temperatures into the existing health and safety legislation, rather than having to rely in practice on a “gentleman’s agreement” reached in 2002 between the Labour Ministry and the social partners.

Yiannaki said that the proposed study – to be carried out jointly by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Cyprus International Institute for the Environment and Public Health – will draw on existing data and new research to add a differentiated qualitative measure to the four empirical measures – temperature, relative humidity, sunlight and wind speed – used currently in a formula to decide whether to issue an advisory.

Following on from a pilot study that was carried out last year, the new study will seek to give a weighting in line with the nature of the work being done – e.g. welding and metalwork versus clearing weeds from a ditch – to evaluate the level of danger involved.

However, it will take at least a year for the scientific study and its conclusions to be completed. Yiannaki said that until it is, the Labour Ministry “will continue with its current tactics”.

RPF Acting Director General and National Research Programmes Unit head Leonidas Antoniou told the Cyprus Mail that normally, proposals for funding of a research project submitted to the RPF are assessed by international experts, who then grade them in terms of suitability, feasibility, etc., allowing them to be prioritised accordingly.

Once a proposal is eventually approved, the practical details are ironed out with the proposer in the following two or three weeks, leading to the drafting and signing of a formal agreement. “Depending on the scope and purpose of the research, it can take 12-14 months to gather and process the data and then draw any conclusions”, Antoniou said.

Meanwhile, the weather over the weekend and beyond may be marginally more bearable. Meteorological Service representative Artemis Orfanou said yesterday that although temperatures may reach 40 degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday, a slight reduction in humidity will mean the heat will not feel as stifling as it has in recent weeks, and there is even the chance of some rain.

SIDEBAR

According to the current guidelines issued by the Labour Inspection Department, measures for mitigating the effects of working in high temperatures include:

-  organising the work so that heavy lifting or digging occurs during the cooler parts of the day, or at least in shaded and well-ventilated areas;

-  arranging regular short breaks in a shaded area and rotating employees allocated to specific tasks;

-  ensuring a plentiful supply of cool drinking water;

-  ensuring employees are wearing light garments (preferably cotton) and hats when necessary.



(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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