The UN labour agency, ILO, says it is becoming increasingly concerned about working conditions in Iraq, where temperatures have soared to 50 degrees Celsius in recent weeks.
In a call for action to protect workers, ILO Country Coordinator in Iraq Maha Kattaa has urged that measures be put in place to reduce the risks for those working under extreme heat.
According to the recent Labour Force Survey, one in four workers in Iraq is employed either in construction or agriculture – already considered among the most hazardous sectors in the world.
A 2019 report by the UN agency highlighted that the “rise in global temperatures caused by climate change will make heat stress more common” – threatening progress towards decent work.
Meanwhile, as conditions deteriorate the security, health and well-being of workers will likely suffer.
Protecting casual workers
Ms. Kattaa said that while workers in some parts of Iraq have been given time off because of the heat, measures must be taken to protect those in informal, temporary, seasonal or day labour who cannot afford to miss a day of work.
This could include providing appropriate clothing; access to drinking water and shaded areas; and being encouraged to work during cooler hours with appropriate break times.
It also involves ensuring that legislation related to occupational safety and health is being enforced through labour inspections – especially in sectors that face the greatest risks.
Modernizing work health and safety
Iraq has ratified a number of ILO Conventions that focus on the need to protect workers throughout different sectors.
Most recently, this was done 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.
Ms. Kattaa reiterated that the ILO is committed to supporting its partners in the development of occupational safety and health and labour inspection policies.
These will contribute to modernizing existing systems and improving conditions for workers and their employers.
While these efforts are not specific to heat stress at work, they will help ensure a more and better working environment for all workers in Iraq, Ms. Kattaa said.
“The safety and health of workers are the responsibility of everyone,” she said.
“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”.