Awareness of occupational hazards and use of safety measures among road-side welders in Jinja Town
Background: About 2.6 billion people worldwide spend one-third of their adult life in hazardous work environments. These hazards are most common in the informal sector which is inadequately supervised and lacks occupational health services. Road-side welders in Jinja town, who form part of this rapidly developing sector, have little known about their awareness of the health hazards that they encounter. Objectives: To assess the level of awareness of occupational hazards and use of safety measures among road-side welders in Jinja town, Uganda. Methodology: A cross-sectional study of 218 welders in Jinja town was carried out using interviewer-administered questionnaires. In addition, 10 workshop managers/supervisors were interviewed as key informants and 10 workshops were systematically observed. Information on socio-demographic characteristics, level of awareness of occupational hazards and use of safety measures was obtained. Results: All the welders were male with a mean age of 31 + 9.07 years and range of 18-53 years. Literacy rate among this group was 93.1%. The average work schedule was 12 hours, without any work shifts meaning that these welders work for long hours and thus the risk of getting accidents at work is increased. Of the 218 welders, the majority 198 (90.8%) had their work stations unsheltered from the sun. Out of the 218 welders, 78% obtained their skill through apprenticeship and 22% through formal training. Overall, 83.3% were aware of the risks of occupational hazards like physical injuries such as cuts and burns associated with their work and this was positively influenced by age, educational status (OR 3.69, CI 1.13-11.13), marital status (OR 0.032, CI 0.011-0.089), work experience(OR 0.011, CI 0.0015-0.083), type of training(OR 0.079, CI 0.011-0.594) and supervision at work(OR 0.094, CI 0.043-0.211). Up to 91.7% welders suffered one or more work-related injuries in the preceding year. The most common type of hazards faced were physical injuries such cuts and burns (73%), eye injuries (6%) and hearing problems (6%). Other hazards included ergonomic related hazards such as musculoskeletal aches (13.5%) and fractures (0.5%); and psycho-social hazards including heat stress/exhaustion. Of the 218 welders, 150 (68.8%) regularly used some form of protective wear. Most welders (98.6%) had goggles while only 12.8% had all the gear including goggles, gloves, overalls and boots. Regular use of safety measures was influenced by the type of training obtained (OR 0.27 CI 0.11-0.71) and supervision at work (OR 2.74 CI 1.18-6.36). Other safety practices in place included regular hand washing with soap while at work (54.8%), showering in the evening after work (89.2%), washing of work clothes in the work place (15%), not eating (73%) and not smoking (97%) in the work areas. Conclusion: There is a high level of awareness of occupational hazards among road-side welders in Jinja town but with a slightly above average use of safety measures. Recommendation: There is need for further sensitization of welders on work place hazards and use of safety measures so as to safeguard their health.