Muscat: The Ministry of Manpower has fined close to 35 companies for violating the mid-day break rule applicable during the afternoon hours of the summer season.
The ministry had issued a directive to all construction companies in the country to stop work at all sites between noon and 3pm, from June to August.
"The mid-day break aims at providing relief to workers from the oppressive summer temperatures," it had said.
In order to enforce the directive, the ministry's teams visited more than 200 institutions all over the country. "The ministry's efforts are aimed at ensuring a healthy working environment for the workforce employed in the private sector," a senior official of the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) said.
Officials said intensive inspections were being conducted at work sites to ensure compliance with the provisions of the rule.
They also said that regulations on occupational safety and health at the facilities governed by the labour law issued by Ministerial Decision No. 286/2008, Article 16, also prohibit the employment of workers at construction sites, or in open spaces, during the period when temperatures soar very high — such as during the afternoon hours from 12:30pm to 3:30pm in the months of June, July and August.
Article 118 of the labour law states that violators would be penalised either with a fine not less than OMR100 and not more than OMR500, or a jail term of not more than one year, or both.
"Also, repeated violations would lead to an even higher penalty," an official said.
The ministry's stance has been welcomed by the workers from countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, a majority of whom work at construction sites.
However, some workers say they are forced to either spend the three hours in an under construction building or sleep on the roadside near the site.
"Now we end up working for longer hours in the sun than before as we begin early. Earlier, we used to start at 7am but now we have to start at 6am," said a labourer at a construction site in Ruwi.
Establishments that provide public and utility services and where work is required to continue non-stop are exempt from the rule. "However, they are exempted only if they provide workers with cool drinking water, temporary resting areas with air-conditioners, and provision of first aid," the MoM official said.
The teams will continue inspections on weekends and holidays till this month-end.