Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Occupational Health and Safety Problems among Workers in the Wood Processing Industries in Mutare, Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Occupational Health and Safety Problems among Workers in the Wood Processing Industries in Mutare, Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this study was to assess the exposures and perceived risks (occupational, lifestyle and psychological factors) of workers in the wood processing industries in Mutare, Zimbabwe. This project is important in that it will reveal why health, safety and hygiene should be perceived as a priority in the wood processing industries of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Usually industry owners and managers do not provide sufficient maintenance and funds to buy protective equipment. Not much attention is thus given to the safety of processing machines, equipment and tools as well as their link to health requirements in such enterprises. A detailed descriptive study was undertaken in the timber working industries of Mutare with a focus between August and October 2011. Random sampling was employed targeting the workers and management of the wood processing enterprises. The samples were drawn from the total employees in each of the two companies under survey. The first company with 1200 full-time workers and 800 contract workers had a sample size of 200 (10% of the total) and the second with 1400 workers had sample size of 140. The wood sector in Zimbabwe needs to be guided by a comprehensive national policy dealing with safety and health issues in the wood processing sector. Wood workers seem not to be covered by appropriate national safety and health standard. Managers are not taking keen account of the risks linked with wood processing. There is need to have precise knowledge on the subject and the various exposure levels need to be measured and monitored.

Keywords: occupational health and safety, wood processing, occupational risks occupational hazards.

INTRODUCTION

The aim of the study was to assess the exposures and perceived health risks (occupational, lifestyle and psychological factors) of workers in the wood processing industries in Mutare. Woodworkers, who represent a considerable fraction of the active population of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, are part of the workforce employed in tough and sometimes menial and poorly paid jobs. The health of the workers, their levels of working capacity and efficiency, professional reliability as well as their safety are influenced by the working conditions, ergonomic, psychological, social factors and lifestyle (Brown 2010, Comlal et al. 2007, Kadiri 2010, Kiwekete 2010). Whilst it is not possible to obtain accurate statistics, because of under-reporting, nevertheless attention has been focused on the hardwoods which can cause nasal cancer ( Comlan et al. 2007).The National Social Security (NSSA) in Zimbabwe has simply indicated that there could be health impacts associated with woodworking and has not undertaken extensive research on the specific health impacts. Softwoods on the other hand can adversely affect human health when large quantities are being processed as observed by Comlan et al. (2007) of the Pathology department of the University of Health Sciences in Gabon. The nature of safety and health problems associated with woodworking in Mutare needs examination as this is an area in which our ignorance exceeds our knowledge.

Traumatic occupational accidents and diseases in the wood sector represent a significant public health concern. Work-related accidents induce enormous emotional and financial costs to families and to society (Balsari et al. 1999). Unfortunately, work related accidents and diseases continue to be serous in the world. The human and economic costs of occupational accidents and diseases remain high and call for concerted efforts to handle them (Abongomera 2008). The ILO (2008) estimates that more than 2 million workers die each year from work related accidents and diseases and this is probably an underestimation. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that workers suffer 270million accidents and at least 335 000 fatal injuries annually. Avoidable occupational diseases affect 160 million people every year. …

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