Death from heat stroke raises concerns for outdoor workers

FUZHOU, China - The heat-related death of a construction worker in Fuzhou, Fujian province, has raised concerns over protecting laborers on excessively hot days.

A middle-aged man from Sichuan province working at a construction site in Fuzhou's Cangshan district suffered fatal heatstroke on June 29, when the temperature peaked above 36 C.

According to a first responder from Fuzhou No 2 Hospital surnamed Chen, the man was found unresponsive on the ground when she arrived at the scene.

Further examination found the man's heartbeat had already ceased, and after death, his body temperature was still above 38.5 C.

Chen said almost all the construction workers on the site were bare-chested, and no one wore a hat for protection from the scorching heat.

According to Fuzhou-based newspaper the Strait News, the incident was the city's first heat-related death this summer. Investigators are still working to identify the worker and the company where he worked.

Nie Yiguang, an officer with the Fujian provincial federation of trade unions, said the death is "an alarm and a big lesson".

He added that trade unions at all levels should play a bigger part in ensuring workers are not forced to work in conditions that might expose them to heatstroke.

Nie urged the city's trade unions to help train employees and supervisors in heat illness prevention before work begins.

The Fujian provincial department of housing and urban-rural development has issued a notice regarding work safety in high temperature environments.

The notice said employers should provide an accessible shaded area for workers to cool down on breaks and offer drinks and medicine to prevent sunstroke.

The notice also said outdoor work should not be carried out when the temperature reaches 40 C during the day, and the maximum outdoor working time should not be longer than six hours when the temperature is between 37 C and 40 C.

Zhao Hailin, a construction worker who has worked in 37 C and higher temperatures for the past few days in Fuzhou's Gulou district, said the workplace has no ventilation or facilities in which to cool off.

Zhao, from Jiangxi province, who works daily from 5 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 7 pm, said he does not get extra pay during these hot days and had no idea that he was entitled to receive financial subsidies due to the extreme weather.

Zhang Youqin, a professor of sociology at Xiamen University, noted that not every employer would follow the work safety demands set by the city's authority, given that the number of related employers are too many.

In that case, surprise work safety checks by local governments are needed to deter employers who disregard the rules, Zhang said.

She added that public awareness of workers' legal rights should be raised so that workers can identify unfair labor practices, she said.

Fuzhou, which is considered one of the hottest cities in the country, was listed last year as one of the "Four Furnaces", together with Chongqing, Nanchang and Hangzhou.

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