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How companies are organizing themselves in the face of the heat wave in the hottest countries of the world


Highlights: In most European countries, there is no law to prevent workers from going to work in hot weather. In the Middle East and North Africa, there are laws to protect workers, but not in the West. The World Health Organization says that in the U.S. and Europe, the law should be in place to prevent heat-related illnesses. The WHO also recommends that workers take breaks in the heat, and that they use air-conditioning when they are not working in the sun. It is not clear if this is possible in the United States.

In Morocco, Dubai, Australia or Qatar... Temperatures can reach peaks, without necessarily the legislation providing protection for employees.

Heat peaks and an organization to review. While the Minister of Energy Transition, Christophe Béchu, presented this Thursday the government's heatwave plan, which includes a major communication campaign and the sending of an SMS alert in the event of a heat peak, no directive seems to be imposed on companies. Only a guide listing measures to improve the temperature in offices should be published, while the labour inspectorate is called upon to intensify its controls in the sectors most vulnerable to heat-related risks.

What about countries where heat waves are numerous and where temperatures often reach 50 ° C, sometimes for several days in a row? In most European countries, such as France or Italy, there is no provision for employees not to come to work when temperatures are too high. No maximum threshold above which it is prohibited to work is de facto set by the Labour Code. Employees must therefore, unless they are internal to their company, come to work.

Read alsoCampaign for the general public, SMS alert... The government unveils its "flagship actions" to "deal with heat waves"

Lack of legislation and wide disparities

In Italy, however, a 2015 decision sets a precedent. Since according to the country's highest court of appeal, workers have the right to interrupt their activity - without losing income or being dismissed - if their employer does not guarantee safe working conditions or forces them to work in "prohibitive" temperatures. In Spain, the regulations are much stricter, since they specify that a temperature between 17 and 27 ° C is required for work in an office, while work requiring light physical effort must be carried out at a temperature between 14 and 25 ° C.

What about countries where it is even hotter, on the African continent or in the Gulf countries for example? In Morocco, where it was still more than 40 ° C last April, there are no specific provisions concerning hot weather. However, the Moroccan Labour Code includes general measures to ensure the health and safety of workers, applicable in the case of extreme weather conditions. However, the employer is required to take all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of workers, especially in the event of extreme heat, such as working time arrangements, more frequent breaks or the provision of adapted personal protective equipment, etc.

But unsurprisingly, air conditioning has been installed in almost all office buildings where most employees who work at their workstations "do not change their work habits" despite the heat, says Saïd, who nevertheless mentions that in the event of a heat wave, "all construction sites are at a standstill". A break authorized by construction companies, but which does not appear in any law. Unlike the Gulf countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, Bahrain or Oman - where the law stipulates in black and white that it is strictly forbidden to work outdoors between noon and 16pm throughout the summer, from June to September.

At this time of year, temperatures are around 40°C every day and are the main concerns of the inhabitants. This is confirmed by Alexandre, who lived in Dubai for several years before returning to France. If according to him, "air conditioning is so widespread that it is not really a subject", the fact remains that in summer, "all habits change (...) you stay in your tower for lunch, and at home, you get delivered for dinner," he explains, pointing out that very few Westerners venture outside at this time, let alone take the subway. As a result, most companies located there tolerate their employees remaining in teleworking or returning to their home country during this period. And this, "well before Covid-19 and the rise of teleworking," says Alexandre.

In Australia, while there is a law that requires employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment, particularly during a heat wave, regulations vary across the six states and ten territories of the country. These measures include adjustments to working hours, maximum temperature limits to which workers may be exposed. If the temperature exceeds this limit, measures must be taken to protect workers, such as additional breaks, work rotations or changes in work schedules.

An essential question

So many good practices to put in place whenever necessary. Despite the absence of legislation in France, nothing prevents companies from implementing this type of measure, as recommended by the National Institute for Research and Safety for the Prevention of Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases (INRS), which advocates "in the event of hot weather" for "the occasional shift in working hours (arriving and leaving work earlier), a limit on the pace of work, a shutdown of electrical appliances that are not essential or an increase in the frequency of breaks".

And if most countries in the world do not have strict legislation on this subject, the question of working for a better supervision of employees appears, on the margins of global warming, more and more essential. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), "more than 380 million jobs could disappear due to global warming and the heat stress it induces", while, notes the ILO, "temperatures above 26 ° C are associated with reduced work productivity" and that "from 33 ° C, a worker can lose up to 50% of his working capacity".

Asked about this at a conference in mid-May, ILO economist Catherine Saget explained that heat stress "can lead to exhaustion, permanent disability or even death" of people who have stayed working too long in the heat. Without ever questioning the lack of legislative framework in this area, she listed good practices to avoid suffering too much from the heat at work: "stay in the shade, cover your head, hydrate, take more frequent breaks and be attentive to your colleagues".

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-06-08

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