Hot seat: Snehal Deshpande

Dubai Municipality is launching a public awareness campaign to prevent heat related hazards this summer in co-operation with National Trading & Pharmaceutical Est. <em>Jeremy Lawrence</em> spoke to Snehal Deshpande, a pharmacist and manager of NTPE to find out what is being planned.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

Tell us about your campaign.
The Safe Summer campaign is being conducted by Dubai Municipality and we’re partnering them in the initiative. The aim is to raise awareness about heat stroke; we want to warn people to please take caution over the coming summer months.

How serious is the problem?
I think last year there were 60 or 70 cases of heat exhaustion every day. If you are treated in time, you can recover. But you cannot just recover from water. Once the body temperature crosses 104 degrees Fahrenheit, your internals suffer irreversible damage. You need intravenous saline treatment to prevent this happening. If treatment is delayed, the patient is in trouble.

Who is the campaign for?
Most of us work in airconditioned environments, but not everyone works indoors. There are labourers working outdoors, of course, but also many other people. For example, you can imagine that a lady waiting for a bus for an hour at midday could have a problem.

How much are the authorities taking this problem seriously?
There will be a midday break for workers again this summer. The first thing we can do is make labourers and site officials aware of the dangers of heat and humidity. When humidity rises, sweat cannot evaporate and the body cannot cool. We have to tell people to drink water and take electrolytes. Workers need be told to drink every 15 minutes or half an hour.

Do construction companies listen to your advice?
There has definitely been a change in their attitudes in recent years. They are realising that in order to make money, they need to take care of their workers. The municipality is also doing more checks and we do a lot of awareness campaigns.

So there have been improvements?
Most construction companies now provide water and electrolytes to their workers and we have encouraged them to give adequate resources to their staff. It still happens though. I remember a case in Sharjah last year when a carpenter felt all these symptoms but did nothing. He passed out, fell from the window he was working on and died.

How much should people working outdoors drink?
Our rule of thumb is to drink enough water to keep you urine clear. If it is dark, you are not drinking enough.

Why are you raising awareness?
I head the pharmaceutical division of National Trading and Pharmaceutical Establishment. We believe that selling a product is not enough. We owe something to the workers of this city; this is our social responsibility. They are the building blocks of our society. We have been doing this for three years. We go to construction sites and talk to the safety department and supervisors. We speak to them directly in their languages. I speak Hindi, my colleague speaks Malay. We have also made a lot of posters in different languages. We try to target everyone.

And have the municipality been supportive?
The municipality has been right behind us. They realise that we are sincerely interested in helping. They saw what we were doing and they were impressed with our work, so they partnered with us.

What are you doing to educate the wider public?
We are planning to print posters and leaflets in different languages and put them on display around Dubai. We will also have Safe Summer umbrellas around town and we will be out and about answering questions. We are also planning to reach a wider audience through the media. Together we will try to reach as many people as possible.

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