Living conditions and delayed salaries among concerns raised but Qatar says reforms are being implemented.
World Cup 2022 labourers in Qatar are to be given “cooling” hard hats which reduce their body temperature as they build football stadiums in the fierce desert heat, tournament organisers announced.
The innovative technology uses a solar-powered fan to reduce the skin temperature by up to 10 degrees, said the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body overseeing the controversial tournament’s organisation.
It has been rigorously tested, patented worldwide, and put through the production stage by a group of Doha-based scientists in cooperation with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Aspire Zone Foundation.
“We are confident that this technology will create more comfortable and safer working conditions,” said Saud Abdul-Aziz Abdul Ghani, an engineering professor at Qatar University, where the hat has been developed.
The cooling hat scheme could be rolled out by next summer, officials said.
Summertime temperatures in Qatar regularly approach 50 degrees Celsius.
“Our objective was to reduce heat stress and heat strokes for workers in Qatar and the region during the summer months,” said Abdul-Ghani.
“Our concept is to use a solar-powered fan to blow air over a cooled material at the top of the helmet, which will then come down over the front of the person’s face and provide a cooler micro-climate for the worker.”
It would provide “cooling in hot conditions for up to four hours straight”, he added, and could “revolutionise” the construction industry in the hottest parts of the world.
Workers in Qatar will be the first to use the helmet, which has been two years in the making, said Hilal Jeham al-Kuwari, an engineer with the supreme committee.
Since 2007, labourers have been banned from working outside in Qatar for several hours during the day at the height of the summer, owing to temperatures.
There are currently more than 5,000 construction workers helping to build World Cup stadiums in Qatar. That number is set to increase to 36,000 within the next two years.
Qatar has come under international criticism for the treatment of its migrant labour force ever since being chosen to host the 2022 World Cup.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International accused Qatar of using “forced labour” at a World Cup site, the Khalifa International Stadium.
In October, it was revealed that Anil Kumar Pasman, a 29-year-old Nepalese labourer, had died after being struck by a truck at Al-Wakrah stadium, the first “work-related” death announced by Qatar’s World Cup organisers.