Heatwave in Iraq: Concern for Workers in 50C Heat

Effective measures are needed to ensure adequate Occupational Safety and Health for workers during extreme heat in Iraq

With temperatures in Iraq soaring up to 50 degrees Celsius [122 degrees Fahrenheit] in recent weeks, the ILO in Iraq is calling on its tripartite partners - the government, employers' and workers' organizations - to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to mitigate some of the risks associated with working under extreme heat and ensure that workers are provided with adequate care at their workplace.

The extreme heat is increasing concerns in relation to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) conditions of workers, especially those employed in construction and agriculture - a sector which is already considered as one of the most hazardous in the world.

According to the recent Labour Force Survey, one in four workers in Iraq is employed either in construction or agriculture - an extremely significant number.

The ILO released a report in 2019 which stated that the "rise in global temperatures caused by climate change will make the phenomenon of "heat stress" more common," adding that "the higher heat levels caused by climate change threaten progress towards decent work by leading to a deterioration of working conditions and undermining the security, health and well-being of workers."

Workers in some parts of the country have been given time off due to the heat. Yet, for workers who cannot afford to miss a day of work, such as those in informal, temporary, seasonal or day labour, measures must be taken to ensure their protection.

On the practical level, this could include ensuring workers are provided with appropriate clothing, access to drinking water and shaded areas; and are encouraged to work during cooler hours with appropriate break times.

It also includes ensuring that legislation related to OSH are being enforced through labour inspections - especially in sectors which face most risks.

Iraq has ratified a number of ILO Conventions which focus on the needs to ensure protection for workers in different sectors, and most recently through the ratification of the Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention, 2001 (No. 184), which re-affirms the country's commitment to decent work and International Labour Standards.

The ILO is committed to supporting its partners in the development of Occupational Safety and Health and Labour Inspection polices and systems, that will contribute to modernizing those systems and improving conditions for workers and their employers, in line with International Labour Standards.

While these efforts are not specific to heat stress at work, they will nonetheless contribute to ensuring a more and better working environment for all workers in Iraq.

The safety and health of workers is the responsibility of everyone. We all have a role to play - even if small - to ensure that working conditions are decent and safe and that our environment is protected from further degradation."

(Source: UN)

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