More than 10,000 sanitation workers in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, who have to work outdoors during the hottest period of the year can now take breaks in air-conditioned stations and enjoy iced treats to cool off.
The Nanjing Urban Management Bureau has so far established 147 cool-off stations for sanitation workers across the city and is cooperating with bus companies, banks and gas stations to build another 494 stations.
Inside the stations, which occupy at least 15 square meters each, bottled water, commonly used medicines and microwave ovens are on hand for workers who need them.
The urban management bureau has suggested that the workers should avoid working from noon to 3 pm. They can either rest at home or take breaks at the stations.
Gao Dapeng, deputy director of the bureau's environmental sanitation department, said that the sanitation workers are not allowed to work outdoors if temperatures hit 40 C, while they can work no longer than six hours outdoors each day if temperatures reach between 37 and 40 C.
The sanitation workers will also alternate shifts, work shorter hours and avoid overtime when they work outdoors in temperatures between 35 and 37 C, he added.
"Their salaries will not be reduced if they stop working or shorten their working hours due to high temperatures," Gao said.
According to the Nanjing Urban Management Bureau, the city's sanitation system has about 15,000 workers, and nearly 10,000 of them work outdoors every day.
"I've experienced a better working environment and supportive measures," said Wang Lin, who has been working in sanitation for many years in the city's Jianye district.
"I used to just have a broom," he said. "But now I can take breaks at stations with air conditioning, and eat watermelon and iced mung bean soup. The tools we used have also been upgraded from brooms to modern mechanized cleaning machines."
Gao said, "The sanitation workers keep the city clean by performing many tasks, including sweeping the roads, watering the roads to reduce dust and air pollution, cleaning the toilets and ensuring that public service facilities function normally."
Chen Tao, deputy director of the urban management bureau of Nanjing's Gulou district, said it is important that these workers be taken care of.
"We hope that the whole society can join us to take care of outdoor workers," said Chen. "We should provide a more comfortable environment for the sanitation workers."
Gao said that compared with the number of the city's sanitation workers, the number of cool-off stations is far from adequate.
The bureau will continue to establish more stations for the workers, he added.
Guo Jun contributed to this story.