DOSH: Workers at risk of heat stress

PETALING JAYA: Many employers and workers in Malaysia remain relatively unaware of how dangerous working under the sun is despite some places having seen temperatures up to 37°C last week.

The Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) said its enforcement activities and definition of heat stress situations showed that various workplaces had a high risk of machinery or work processes that generated high amounts of heat.

“The awareness among employers and workers on the exposure to heat stress situations is low and has to be overcome,” it said in an e-mail response to queries on the dangers of heatstroke among workers.

DOSH, it said, came up with guidelines for employers to deal with heat stress situations at workplaces in 2016, which should be in place in all sectors, including construction.

“All employers are requested to follow and adopt the guidelines as their source of reference as part of their requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.

“If they are found to have flouted the law, they can be fined under Section 15,” it said.

Among the guidelines are ensuring air-conditioning, changing work process, equipping workers with protective gear such as cooled vests and reflective suits as well as making sure workers work in groups or with a partner during situations with high heat-stress risk.

DOSH said that as of July, 151 cases of employers flouting rules on their workers’ safety had been brought to court, resulting in RM1.9mil in penalties. Last year, there were 288 cases with RM3.2mil penalties.

“There were also 716 compounds and 19,695 notices issued against errant employers,” it added.

As of Friday, no district is under the Category 1 alert for heatwave, as compared to 18 towns and cities nationwide on Aug 15.

The locations that hit Category 1 then were Sik in Kedah; Kuala Selangor (Selangor); Bentong, Temerloh, Maran, Kuantan and Rompin (Pahang); Segamat (Johor); Bau, Kuching, Sri Aman, Saratok, Sibu, Kapit, Bintulu and Limbang (Sarawak); and Kota Kinabalu and Kudat (Sabah).

For heatwave alert, Category 1 is when the maximum temperature is 35-37°C for three days in a row.

As of 1pm yesterday, most places in Malaysia showed a moderate reading of the Air Pollutant Index (API) for haze of between 50 and 100, with Bandaraya Melaka (83) and Kuching (82) recording the highest reading.

In contrast, on Aug 16, eight locations in Penang, Perlis, Kedah and Sarawak recorded an unhealthy API reading of over 100.

In Miri, the API broke past 200 points and hit 228 points on Aug 18, mainly due to hotspots in Kalimantan.