project manager | civil engineer
Working in the UAE
I transferred Dubai in 2016 to gain international experience and learn about working in a different environment. Working in another country and working among many different cultures brings its challenges and nuances which I have not experienced working in the UK. I have had to adapt my approach to many work situations, and learn new skills, to ensure the best outcomes
Hot weather working
The midday break rule
The temperatures in Dubai reach astonishing heights in the summer, regularly reaching temperatures of 45°C and sometimes up to 50°C in the summer. From personal experience of site visits in these temperatures, I can confirm that conditions are unbearable. The midday break rule in Dubai runs from mid-June until mid-September and involves all labourers on site taking a mandatory break from 12:30 to 15:00 to eat, take a nap or go home, helping them to escape the worst of the unbearable heat. Firms found making their labourers work during this period can be fined up to AED 50,000, which is approximately £11,000. (My personal view, is that this maximum figure is too low)
Pouring concrete in hot climates
Some working activities also have to be carried out during night shifts, such as concrete pouring. When concrete is hot, hydration occurs much more rapidly meaning that although early strength gains may be higher, the concrete may not achieve the overall compressive strength required. This may be approximately 10% lower than the mix is designed to achieve. Concrete surface drying is also an issue in hot weather working, as in hot sunny climates, surface drying and shrinkage occurs, causing surface cracking. In general, temperature differentials throughout the concrete, as a result of hot subgrades and formwork, can also result in more cracking.
There are various ways in which concrete mix designs can be altered to improve their properties and workability in hot climates, including the use of low heat cement or by adding suitable admixtures or plasticizers, specified by the design engineer. Practical working techniques can also be adopted, such as spraying subgrades and formwork with cool water to keep them at the right temperature and on site mixing and batching, to keep the concrete temperature cooler. In the summer months in Dubai, it is essential to pour concrete at night when the temperatures are cooler, however other methods must also be adopted, as it isn’t uncommon for temperatures to exceed 30°C, even at 02:00!
Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, where no food or drink touches their lips between the morning and evening prayers, known as fajr and maghrib prayers. Whilst non-Muslims are not expected to follow this practice in Dubai, they must adhere to strict rules regarding fasting in public spaces. You can only eat, drink and smoke in private. Companies must provide eating rooms which are away from those fasting, and many public eating areas will either be closed, or cordoned off with large boards which state that eating is restricted to non-Muslims.
During Ramadan, labour law states that working hours must be reduced. This is usually by around 2 hours per day and is applicable to both public and private sectors. Working hours are usually announced by the UAE in the month lead up to Ramadan and are relevant to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
But what do you need to be aware of during this time both in work and outside of work to ensure safety for employees?
Fasting can cause drops in blood sugar, tiredness and light headedness. Construction workers find this time particularly challenging.
With a large proportion of the population fasting, more accidents happen on the road during Ramadan due to fatigue, so everyone needs to be vigilant when travelling.
Workers fasting should be given lighter duty jobs. In Dubai, when most construction workers are fasting, work should be rotated to ensure sharing the burden of more tiresome jobs.
Employers should be more flexible during this time, for example moving meetings to accommodate a fasting Muslim, perhaps making it earlier in the day.
Planning is very important in the lead up to Ramadan. Business slows down, due to the reduced working hours and greater working flexibility so it is key to plan ahead, particularly international businesses who deal with non-Islamic countries where working hours have not reduced.