Spain is set to ban outdoor work during periods of extreme heat, Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz announced on Wednesday.
The ban will be enforced when Spain's meteorological agency, AEMET, issues red or orange heat warnings, a scenario that has already occurred on a few abnormally hot occasions this year. The measure will especially affect outdoor work such as street cleaning, agriculture, and construction.
"In the past, we've seen very serious incidents ... where workers have succumbed to heat stroke," Diaz explained. "This is to avoid tragedies like the one that occurred in Madrid last year, where a 60-year-old street sweeper died of heat stroke while working in full sun in the harshness of the summer."
Spain's public health agency estimated that extreme temperatures killed nearly 6,000 people in 2022, with the vast majority of deaths occurring in the summer months. Last summer was Spain's hottest on record since 1961, according to AEMET.
To adapt to the heat, some regions such as southern Andalusia or Madrid already allow students to go home early in case of heat waves. Spain's water reservoirs are on average below 50 percent of their capacity, while levels have fallen to approximately 25 percent in Andalusia and the northeastern region of Catalonia, two of the worst-hit areas.
The country has just recorded its warmest, driest, and sunniest April on record with temperatures touching 38.8C in some regions.
In response to the country's debilitating drought and heat crisis, the Spanish government has called an emergency ministerial meeting to pass a new measure aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat. Diaz clarified that the ban would be part of a package the Socialist-led government will approve on Thursday.
If approved, Spain would join a number of other countries, including France, Italy, and Qatar, which have similar regulations in place to protect workers from the health risks associated with high temperatures.
Some experts have raised concerns that the ban could negatively impact certain industries, such as agriculture and construction, which rely heavily on outdoor labour. However, proponents of the measure argue that it is necessary to prioritise worker safety and health, especially in the face of increasingly extreme weather conditions.
The new measure is part of a broader package of climate policies that the Spanish government plans to roll out in the coming months. According to Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz, the government aims to "make Spain a leader in the fight against climate change" by promoting renewable energy, reducing emissions, and transitioning to a more sustainable economy.
September 26, 2023
September 22, 2023