Bahrain's midday outdoor work ban went into effect for the sixth consecutive year in July amid continued debate about the ban's necessity.
Some contractors have said the ban disrupts construction projects, while workers and government agencies say it reflects Bahrain's respect for the basic rights of foreign workers by ensuring occupational health and safety in the workplace.
First imposed in 2007, the ban restricts outdoor work between noon and 4 p.m. in July and August for construction workers who -- by the nature of their jobs -- are required to work in sun-exposed areas.
The ban also gives the country's Labour Ministry the right to pursue legal action against companies that violate the injunction, including the possibility of referral to the public prosecutor and fines ranging between 50-300 dinars ($133-$798) for each worker the company employs during the banned hours.
According to Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan, government inspectors conducted 9,608 assessments from July 1st-25th and uncovered 121 violations involving 367 workers.
Humaidan said that most establishments have adhered to the ban thus far, adding that 9,487 workplaces -- or nearly 99% of those inspected -- are in compliance with the measure.
Inspections will continue until the end of August, when the ban expires, he said.
Humaidan urged all private sector companies and establishments to take precautions in order to follow the law, such as adjusting workers' daily schedules, especially at major construction worksites.
Companies should also obtain the technical means necessary to regulate temperature and humidity levels at worksites, and provide workers with the required safety equipment and tools to enable them to do their job better and more safely, the minister said.
Nidham Kamashki, the former president of the Bahrain Contractors Association, told Al-Shorfa that he thinks the ban is flawed, in that it "disrupts construction projects and causes workers to work at half-capacity for two whole months".
"Workers work at half-capacity in July and August, which results in project delays. A state of discontent prevails among the workers due to [heat] exhaustion, leading to lower productivity and project delays," he said.
The ministry should only ban work when temperatures reach certain levels, because not all days in July and August are hot, and sometimes September sees higher temperatures, he said.
Each worksite should have a thermostat, he said, adding that workers, supervisors or inspectors should determine when to suspend work simply by checking the thermostat.
The ban "needs to be re-considered", Kamashki told Al-Shorfa. "We have always hoped [that the ministry] would issue a law on occupational health and safety in the workplace because we care about our workers more than the Labour Department itself does."
While the stoppage has led to a decline in the number of cases of fainting and heat exhaustion, Kamashki says this had come at the company's expense, and that the Labour Ministry needs to "reconsider this decision".
Indian construction worker Mandeep Aneel said he welcomes the midday work ban because it safeguards workers' health and protects them from the risks of high temperatures.
"I have been working in Bahrain for three years, and every July and August we take advantage of the midday work ban to get a good amount of rest because the outdoor heat at this time of year is unbearable here and worksites are not conducive to safe working conditions," he said.
Aneel said the ban "reflects Bahrain's commitment to ensuring the most basic rights of foreign workers as recommended by international conventions, which call for the provision of all means to ensure occupational health and safety in the workplace".