Physical Hazards and Reported Health Effects among Welders in the Small and Medium Enterprise Sector in Embakasi, Nairobi City County, Kenya.
Onguto, Nicholas Odhiambo
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Worldwide, there has been an increasing concern about occupational exposures and injuries among welders in both the small scale and large scale manufacturing industries. Occupational hazards include activities, processes, or materials related to welding with the potential to cause harm or adverse health effects on people performing this task. The sprawling of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world provides several challenges to ensuring health and safety practices among workers in the urban poor. This study, therefore, investigated the prevalence of physical hazards and their related risk factors among welders in Embakasi, Nairobi County. It was a cross-sectional study conducted among 214 welders from 72 workshops in the Embakasi region, namely in Kariobangi South Light Industries, Kayole, and Umoja. Data collection procedure entailed observation and interviews through self-administered questionnaires. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data on risk factors such as socio-demographic profile, training prior to induction, experience, job duration, and use of protective equipment, associated with occupational injuries in the past one year. Key informant interviews and focused group discussion were also conducted to gather qualitative data on welding occupational hazards and the associated injuries. Data was analysed using SPSS version 22 and both descriptive statistics and inferential statistics such as chi-square test and Fishers’ Exact Test were conducted to explain the association between the study variables. The study recorded an overall response rate of 93.9%. It was found out that those who practice arc welding accounts for 58.9% of the welding types followed by those who practice both arc welding and gas metal arc welding (GMAW or metal inert gas welding) (34.6%).Bright light (94.4%), excessive heat (61.7%), projectiles (87.9%), and sharps (78%) were the most common hazards (reported by more than 60% of the respondents).Eye related symptoms (>90%), cuts to the hand/arms and feet (98-100%) and burns to the hands and feet (99%) were the most prevalent self-reported health conditions in the present study. The study indicated that 90.2% of welders knew the activities at the workplace that pose health hazards, about 75.2% of them knew that PPE could be used to protect workers from hazards. Fire was the most reported hazard (97.7%). Welders’ knowledge of physical hazards at their workplace was significantly associated with experience (Fishers Exact Test =45.025, p=0.000), number of hours worked per day (Fishers Exact Test = 9.322, p<0.007), and PPE use (2= 3.884, df = 1, p = 0.049). The study results will be beneficial for the formulation of guiding principles for health and safety for welding procedures. These principles will be adopted by the welders and other artisans in the metal industry, especially those in the Jua Kali sector as well as the regulatory authorities in the country. The study results will be beneficial to welders in making informed decisions about the adoption of safety measures, identification of occupational hazards, and developing health-seeking behaviours.