Occupational Health Promotion in the Informal Jua Kali (artisan) sector
Occupational safety and health promotion for workers in the informal sector
A project focusing on prevention of exposure to high noise among metal workers in the in formal sector was conducted in 2022. This project provided a good opportunity to understand the organisation, work methods and challenges of the informal sector. The project showed that the workers in the informal are willing to learn and understand how to implement and manage safety and health paradigm. However, there has not been any communication or any type of information sharing from any hold on occupational health and safety for the benefit if the workers in the informal sector.
The project can be put into two main parts:
- OSH training arrangements for informal sector
This part of the project concerns OSH information campaigns targeting different work groups in the informal sector. The content of the campaigns would be to engage and involve OSH professionals to visit different informal sector worksite and educate the workers on health and safety concerns associated with their work and how to work safely reducing exposure levels of the workplace hazards. Since most of the workers in the informal sector have no access to formal OSH, it would be useful to take the trainings to them and focus on the risks of the work they do. This would enable comprehension of the practicality of prevention of exposure to the workplace hazards.
- Follow-up of the earlier project on noise prevention
The intention is to buy noise protection devices for more metal workers as a follow up to the earlier project on noise reduction. In the earlier project, it was apparent that there more workers who needed protection than was anticipated. Therefore, there is a need to provide more protective devices cover a larger number of those who previously did not get.
Practical phases of the project
Sites visit, and training delivery, through out 2023
- Liaison with different informal sector groups to agree on training program.
- Design strategies and timelines for worksite visits and training.
- Short training for the OSH professionals as preparation for worksite visits.
- Teams visiting worksite for training and information dissemination.
- After project meetings to share experiences
Project evaluation, January-March 2024
- Interviews with a few of the workers on their new experiences following the capacity building exercise.
- Post project site visit to follow-up on use of implementation of risk managment measures
Project Implementation site
Informal sector station in Mombasa, Kenya.
Prevention of hearing damage from exposure to high noise (2022)
Occupational safety and health promotion for metal fabrication workers in the 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, because most of the work is done at roadside worksites, most without any shade. Workers in the sector are primarily 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 mainly done by hand using metal chisels for cutting, hammers and anvils for shaping/forming. Few workers may have some level of vocational training, but most are self-taught and develop their skills as they gain experience over time. There are no known programmes for training workers on occupational safety and health in the informal sector.
The nature of work and the tools used are sources of high noise. The workers work day long without 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 prolonged noise exposure.
The project’s objective was to bring about more awareness of noise hazards and related health concerns and to support the workers in mitigating the effects of noise exposure.
The project first entailed documenting the noise levels at a specified metal fabrication worksite. The next stage was to provide short training on noise hazards and the health risks of noise exposure. 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. Audiometric tests showed that 70% of the workers had noise-induced hearing loss, varying according to the years in the occupation. OSH Pro Services provided 30 workers with ear muffs per the attenuation level determined.