Spain’s second Deputy PM and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz made the announcement on Monday, telling journalists that her government would send 137,000 letters to companies whose employees have jobs where exposure to high temperatures is common.
Díaz used the tragic death of a fruit picker in Murcia in 2020 as an example, who “after working at 45 C for a whole day of strenuous work” passed away from heatstroke.
Spain’s Labour Inspectorate registered “more than 100 cases of heatstroke and related work accidents in 2019,” Héctor Illueca, head of the department, said during the press conference.
Two sectors are particularly affected by work accidents due to heatstroke during the summer period: construction work and agriculture.
In the letter sent to the companies in question, Spain’s Labour Ministry will remind them that failing to meet heatstroke prevention requirements will result in “serious or very serious penalties”, ranging from €2,046 up to €819,780.
“We’re going to take their case very seriously,” Díaz stated in reference to the roughly one million workers in Spain who face dangerous heat conditions.
Labour inspections during the summer period in Spain will prioritise complaints relating to heatstroke incidents and focus on businesses that use unregistered migrants and workers without contracts.
A worker gathers grapes during the Spanish vintage in Jerez, southern Spain. Photo: José Luis Roca/AFP
Labour inspectors will look out for heatstroke risk factors such as prolonged work outdoors and big distances from drinking water sources or air-conditioned places, as well as the strenuousness of the work.
“It’s essential companies adopt preventive measures such as providing work clothes that protect from the sun, sun creams that protect workers’ skin, water and other liquids, more frequent work breaks, to avoid the hottest hours of the day and overall organise work matters to protect workers’ health,” Illueca explained.
Temperatures in central and southern Spain regularly reach 40C during the months of July and August, and this year has been no different.
Heatstroke (also called sunstroke) occurs when the body can’t maintain a temperature under 45C when exposed to hot weather.
Symptoms include headache, dizziness and confusion, loss of appetite and feeling sick, excessive sweating and being pale, having clammy skin, cramps in the arms, legs and stomach, hyperventilating and a high heart rate, a high temperature of 38C or above and being very thirsty.
Without a fast response to lower the sufferer’s body temperature, heatstroke can cause the brain or other vital organs to swell, potentially resulting in permanent injury or death.