Measures to protect workers during heatwaves

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As Greece endured a heatwave during August 1999, the GSEE trade union confederation issued guidance on the measures which must be taken to combat heat exhaustion among workers, while the construction workers' union issued its own special recommendations.

On 10 August 1999, the health and safety committee of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) prompted by the heatwave that had been affecting Greece since the beginning of the month, issued Circular No. 14 setting out all the measures which must be taken to combat heat exhaustion among workers during the summer.

The circular, which is based on Ministry of Labour Circular No. 130329/1995 dealing with the same subject, contains technical measures for workplace improvement and organisational measures for relief and protection of workers, as well as recommendations for the protection of workers during heatwaves. The latter state that workers falling into a high-risk category - people who suffer from heart or lung conditions, people who are prone to general ailments, people who take special drugs and pregnant women - who do heavy work in non-air-conditioned areas where temperatures are high, must not work for the duration of the heatwave. Inclusion in the high-risk category is determined by the works doctor (GR9703107F). In cases where there is no works doctor, the workers themselves must supply a medical certificate. Temperature risk factors are determined on the basis of special measurements described in Ministry of Labour Circular No. 140120/1989. GSEE calls on all its member organisations to inform workers of existing measures and to implement them in workplaces, giving immediate priority to workplaces where conditions are particularly severe. If such measures are violated, workers should request immediate intervention by technical inspectors and inform the GSEE health and safety committee.

The Federation of Construction Workers and Related Occupations issued its own special recommendations to all workers in the construction industry. Specifically, the Federation stresses that on days when the temperature is higher than 36 degrees Celsius, workers should take frequent breaks, so that their working day is composed of 75% work and 25% rest, as stipulated by labour legislation. The Federation also calls on workers not to work during heatwaves, but nevertheless to demand that employers pay them their wages, as they are obliged to do when temperatures are over 39 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the industry-wide collective agreement.

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