A period of prayer, fasting, charity and self-reflection for Muslims, the Holy Month of Ramadan begins on Tuesday 12 April and will end on 12 May.
Falling in the summer months, this period can present itself with a specific set of challenges when it comes to matters of health and safety, so it’s important that both employees and employers recognise ways to remain healthy and productive during the working, and fasting, hours. Dehydration, low blood sugar levels and fatigue are all symptoms to guard against during the Holy month.
Risks associated with Ramadan
Those fasting don’t eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset which can cause severe dehydration, leading to headaches and heat stress. Fasting can often cause severe dehydration, leading to headaches, dizziness, lethargy, fatigue and heat stress. Those living GCC countries are particularly vulnerable as temperatures can soar to a whopping 38 degrees. Those observing Ramadan in countries with long daylight hours (such as Greenland and Iceland) can equally be at risk as fasting periods can last in excess of 21 hours.
Low Blood Sugar Levels
Fasting can further result in low blood sugar levels or hypoglycaemia, symptoms of which include confusion, slurred speech and/or fainting.
Social activities, evening prayer and fasting during Ramadan can all contribute to fatigues which can pose a threat to safety both on the roads and in the workplace and is much covered in the media.
Alastair Park, Head of the Astutis offices in the Middle East commented:
‘During my time in Dubai, I have been privileged to take part in 5 Ramadan celebrations, each and every time people’s faith and commitment continues to astound me. However, fasting during such hot weather can bring risks - especially in the workplace. Organisations are becoming much more proactive in educating their employees in the risks of heat exhaustion and this has shown in the reduced numbers of accidents and fatalities.’
7 tips to keep your workers safe
- Have your employees stay inside or offer shaded rest during the hottest time of the day. Dehydrated workers are often at a higher risk of exhaustion, so limit physical activity during times of fasting to reduce the risk of injury.
- Allow your employees the flexibility to start work earlier or later so they can spend this time with their families.
- Avoid adding additional stress by postponing deadlines and important projects until after Ramadan.
- Encourage conversations and discussions in the workplace to raise awareness and understanding of Ramadan amongst non-Muslim workers. This will help encourage an inclusive environment and build a positive work culture that accepts different cultures and beliefs.
- Ensure you provide adequate first aid or medical assistance should anyone feel unwell during work.
- Allow your employees to take regular breaks to rest and get some fresh air throughout the day. Short bursts of air are proven to increase oxygen in the bloodstream and boost energy levels, helping employees become more productive throughout the day.
- Encourage other employees to avoid eating or drinking in front of anyone going without.
Read our full 7 Ways to Support Employees During Ramadan blog here.
4 tips for working during Ramadan
- Re-structure your working day by shifting intellectually demanding tasks to the morning and routine tasks for the later in the day when the effects of fasting begin to creep in.
- Avoid doing any physically demanding tasks in the afternoon when the temperature is high and your energy levels begin to drop.
- Take regular breaks - if you feel tried, try going for a walk to get some fresh air and raise your oxygen levels.
- Maintain open communication with your colleagues and manager so they are aware you are fasting and can support you with your workload or working hours.
Keeping healthy during Ramadan
- Whatever time it is, make sure you don’t skip your Suhoor meal.
- Ensure your meals are loaded with high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables, are low in saturated fats.
- If possible, consume 2 or 3 smaller meals when non-fasting to avoid the effects of hyperglycaemia (when too much sugar is present in the blood stream).
- Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and wholemeal bread should be consumed at the start of the day (as late as possible before the daily fast) to postpone the possible effects of hypoglycaemia. These will help balance your energy levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- Opt for simple carbohydrates at your sundown meal including fruits, milk, and milk products. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy.
- Increase your water intake between Iftar and Suhoor to 3 litres to decrease the risk of dehydration. Foods such as watermelon, cucumber, celery and tomatoes will also help keep you hydrated with their high water content.
- Modify the intensity and timing of any exercise taken.
- Get plenty of rest – an accumulated lack of sleep will affect a person’s concentration, focus, and decision-making.
Find out more in our blog 8 Tips for Staying Healthy this Ramadan blog post.
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