The next time you see a traffic constable leaving his post by the side of the road, don’t be too quick to accuse of him of deserting his station. He may just be taking a “heat stroke break.”
Effective Monday, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) imposed daily 30-minute “time-outs” for its outdoor personnel until May 31 to protect them from illnesses due to too much sun exposure.
As a result, traffic constables and street sweepers may take a break between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. or between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.—considered the hottest periods during the day by health and weather experts, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said in a statement.
The concerned personnel, however, will be required to take their break in shifts so that someone will always be left manning their posts, he added.
“We should try to understand the plight of these traffic constables and street sweepers who brave the heat every day to fulfill their duties,” Tolentino said. “We cannot risk the health and lives of our personnel. Their safety is our paramount concern.”
He cited a study of the United States National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that showed that exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries.
“Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat rashes,” the study said.
Tolentino recalled that last year, an MMDA traffic constable died due to heat stroke while on duty.
At the same time, he called on employers to guard their employees against “heat stress” as he noted that in Dubai, the Ministry of Labor requires companies to give their outdoor workers a midday break during summer.
The US Army and Marine Corps also enforce a regular mandatory rehydrating and resting schedule lasting 20 to 40 minutes, he added.
The Department of Health has warned the public against heat stroke as temperatures continue to go up. On April 3, the temperature peaked at 35.2 degrees Celsius, the hottest day recorded so far this year.