Prevention of hearing damage from exposure to high noise (2022)
Occupational safety and health promotion for metal fabrication workers in informal sector
According to a 2019 report from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), over 80% of the total employment in Kenya is in the informal sector, known locally as the “Jua Kali,” literally under the hot sun, due to the fact that most of the work is done at roadside worksites, most without any shade. Workers n the sector are mostly self-employed individuals, while others work together in organised groups. One of the major groups, and maybe the most significant, is the one for metal fabrication. The work of the metal fabricators involves cutting steel sheets, rods, forming and shaping into various products, grinding, filing, welding, etc. The work is mostly done by hand using metal chisels for cutting, hammers and anvils for shaping/forming. Few of the workers may have some level of vocational training, but the majority are self-taught and developed their skills as they gain experience over time. There are no known programmes for training the worker in the informal sector on occupation safety and health.
The nature of work and the tools used are a source of high noise level. The workers work day long without any type of protection against the high noise level. Work by Sawanga et al (2016) showed that the noise levels recorded at the metal fabrication sites were over 90dB, with 60% of the workers having hearing threshold level shift with hearing impairment due to long exposure to noise.
The objective of the project was to bring about more awareness on noise hazards and the related health concerns, and to support the workers in mitigating the effects of exposure to noise.
The project entailed first to documentation of the noise levels at a specified metal fabrication worksite. The next stage was to provide a short training on noise hazards and the health risks associated with exposure to noise. Further, audiometric tests on the workers were conducted. An occupational health physician was at hand to advise the workers on health promotion.
Noise levels at 96-110 dB were reported. Audimetric tests showed that 70% of the workers had noise-induced hearing loss, the degree varying according to the years in the occupation. OSH Pro Services provided 30 workers with ear muffs in accordance with the attenuation level determined.