By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
The recent spate of tornadoes that destroyed thousands of lives in Americaâ€™s Southeast and the recent burgeoning Mississippi River, which has already inundated its banks in one of the worst floods to occur in the state in more than 70 years, are just two examples of disturbing weather trends to occur this year. Many scientists attribute the severe weather to the effects of pollution and global warming. Other parts of the world have also experienced catastrophic weather patterns in recent years and the outlook appears to be worsening.
The arid desert regions of the Middle East make natural disasters, such as tornadoes and large-scale flooding, improbable. However, the heat of the desert sun is a formidable foe in the region as the scalding hot summer temperatures have only continued to ascend over the past few years. Last summer was one of the hottest, on record, in the region as a whole. This summer, meteorologists are predicting an even hotter summer in the Mideast region with some even saying that temperatures could reach 116 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Public safety is of the utmost concern during the scorching summer months. Most countries in the region do issue hot weather warnings, however much of the advice goes unheeded in specific sectors. In the construction industry, for example, construction workers are often forced to brave the hot conditions in order to make sure that deadlines are met. In summers past, countries like Kuwait and Oman, have grappled with horrific accidents as workers have fainted high atop construction sites and toppled to their deaths.
For this reason, one country is insisting upon new laws to protect workers from exploitation and harm during the unforgiving summer months. Qatarâ€™s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) is going to great lengths to enforce special summer timings for outdoor workers in the country and plans to penalize any company that forces its employees to work outdoors during the peak hours of the sun. According to the head of Qatarâ€™s Occupational Health Department (OHD), â€œHeat stress and falling from heights are the two major occupational health risks facing workers in Qatar. We have given the top priority to these two issues in our activities aimed to promote occupational health and safety. The guidelines on heat stress are part of this strategy. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Labor to ensure that the companies abide by the new guidelines.â€
The SCH has also launched a campaign to educate both employees and company heads on recognizing the signs of heat stroke as well as measures that can be taken for a victim until medical assistance arrives. A series of public service announcements will also air on state-run television to ensure that the public is prepared for the extraordinarily hot weather.
In a related development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has recently recommended that Qatar begin harvesting rain water in the winter months to ensure an adequate supply of water the rest of the year. Despite the severe lack of water in most parts of the Middle East and predictions that the region will face harsh water shortages in the coming years, most countries have ignored the precious resource that harvested rainwater could most assuredly provide.