In a sign that more construction companies in Qatar are giving greater thought to their employees’ welfare, sales of high-tech cooling gear for outdoor workers are increasing exponentially, a local firm has said.
TechNiche International sells products that help workers combat the onset of heat-related stress and illnesses during the summer months.
They include wrist and headbands that are soaked in water for a couple of minutes and can cool the wearer for up to four hours, as well as inserts that are filled with a special liquid that stays cold when slipped into one’s pocket.
Paul Gilligan, TechNiche’s general manager for the Middle East, said his company has grown in Qatar from a negligible amount of sales in 2013 to revenues in the seven digits last year.
He told Doha News that he expects this year’s sales to increase even further as employers learn about the technology:
“Qatar is a great example of a country looking to do the right thing. The rest of the world needs to recognize that this takes time. Worker welfare is a high priority and I see improvements all the time.”
Even though the temperature in Doha is forecast to reach a high of 44 degrees Celsius this weekend, the country’s midday work ban won’t take effect for another three weeks.
And with Qatar racing to complete construction of countless buildings, roads and other infrastructure, even some workers concede that there are limited ways of warding off the region’s intense summer heat.
Allaudin, a 26-year-old Nepalese laborer who works as a brick and pipe-layer for Al Hajjaj Ltd., said:
“Our companies tries to do the best, but there’s only so much you can do in this heat. We get cold water from a nearby mosque and are provided with glucose to keep our energy up, but that’s about it. When it gets too hot, we take breaks and sit in the shade,” he told Doha News.
Allaudin’s current shifts runs from 5am to 3pm. That will soon change, as the government’s summer midday work ban – which prohibits outdoor work between 11:30am and 3pm – comes into effect June 15 and lasts until the end of August.
During this time, Allaudin said he and his colleagues will work from 3am to 11am, after which they are free to spend the day indoors.
Other workers who spoke to Doha News said that the heat brings other work-related issues such as overheated asphalt on roads.
“When we do pipe work underneath the roads, we have to then fix the roads. We lay the asphalt, but it gets so hot … It sticks to our boots, and we have to be careful not to touch it,” said another worker from Al Hajjaj Ltd.
Workers at a construction site overseen by Construction Development Contracting and Trading in Al Sadd said that they had a better time dealing with the heat.
“Our company has a cooler on-site, so we get cold water all day,” said a Nepalese worker who had been with the company for four years.
“We work in the building, so we have shade most of the time, which is good. Otherwise, we just take short breaks or cover our faces and necks with scarves to protect ourselves from the heat. The company can’t do anything else. The weather is hot. What can we do?”