Press Release

From the International Labour Organization in Iraq

23 June 2024

Heat stress is a significant concern worldwide, particularly in the Arab region and Iraq, due to its severe health impacts on workers. During the summer months, temperatures can soar to 50 degrees Celsius. The most groups at risk include outdoor workers, especially those in construction, agriculture, infrastructure, and the service sector.

The current Iraqi Labour Law No. 37 of 2015 and the Occupational Safety and Health Requirements Instructions No.12 of 2016 provide the legal framework for protecting workers from occupational hazards in general. This includes the government's responsibility, through the National Center for Occupational Health and Safety associated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, to develop a national policy of occupational health and safety in consultation with social partners. The government is also tasked with identifying and evaluating emerging occupational risks in the workplace, monitoring factors that affect workers' health and safety, monitoring workers' health, and recording work injuries and occupational diseases.

The Labour Law outlines the responsibilities of employers towards workers in terms of providing healthy workplace conditions and necessary precautions to protect workers during their duties. 

Workers have the right to work in safe conditions and a healthy work environment. Employers are obligated to take necessary measures to protect workers from occupational hazards, work-related risks, and machinery that could harm their health. Additionally, employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of workers in all aspects related to their work and taking preventive measures to reduce workers' exposure to high temperatures. Some countries have prioritized heat-related risks in their national occupational health and safety policies and strategies, recognizing the urgent need to protect workers and workplaces from these increasing risks. These policies include specific preventive measures, such as acclimatization programs in Singapore and South Africa, hydration in Austria, Benin, Cameroon, Chile, Pakistan, India, Samoa, and Saudi Arabia, ventilation in Argentina, Barbados, India, Morocco, and Senegal, rest breaks in the shade or air conditioning in Cameroon and Saudi Arabia, training in Bahrain, Oman, and South Africa, and the supply of PPE and other safety equipment in Bahrain, Bolivia, Fiji, and Italy. 

Other countries have adopted more detailed provisions, defining a set of actions to be taken in the workplace, including risk assessment procedures and adequate prevention and mitigation measures.

In addition, several measures can be taken under such conditions, such as adjusting work schedules and times for outdoor workers, imposing mandatory rest periods during the hottest periods of the day, using PPE and clothing to reduce heat stress, ensuring adequate water intake, allowing workers access to rooms equipped with cooling systems, and permitting work stoppages when temperatures exceed permissible limits suitable for each profession and its performance requirements.

As occupational Safety and health is one of the fundamental principles and rights at work, according to the 2022 International Labour Conference's resolution that included "a safe and healthy working environment" in the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of 1998, and with the adoption of the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 ( No. 155) of 1981 and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention No. 187 of 2006 as core ILO conventions, and given that Iraq is one of the countries most affected by climate change in the Arab region, the International Labour Organization urges the Iraqi government, workers' organizations, and employers' organizations to work together to update the legal frameworks on occupational safety and health. They should develop the necessary procedural frameworks to mitigate the severe heat during the summer months on workers by regulating working hours, organizing awareness campaigns on heat stress, disseminating information about the risks associated with heat stress, and emphasizing the importance of preventive measures. We also encourage employers to provide training for workers on managing and addressing heat stress, and we urge employers to modify workplaces to reduce heat exposure, including providing shaded rest areas, improving ventilation, and installing appropriate cooling systems.

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