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Uganda: People are desperate for work in Uganda

2013/11/27

Getting to work this morning, I counted about six KCCA workers (women) sweeping roads and none of them was wearing a dust mask.

Two of the women, to protect themselves from the dust, had tied pieces of cloth around their noses but the rest swept away, unprotected.

Continued exposure to dust can trigger or result in respiratory-related diseases (asthma, bronchitis, emphysema) with characteristics such as pulmonary inflammation, chest tightness and airway obstruction, according to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Such hazards and others are, however, ignored by both employers and employees.

\"People are desperate for work and they will take any job, even hazardous ones where personal protective equipment [PPE] is not provided,\" an official from the Occupational Health and Safety department of the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, who asked for anonymity because she is not a spokesperson said.

She added: \"Employers as well seem to be unaware that if they provide a safe place to work in, they save on medical costs should accidents occur, absenteeism, their reputations at the same time as they prevent accidents, and they have a happier and therefore additional productive labour force.\"

She revealed industries that record the majority accidents as being construction, manufacturing, hotel, horticulture and medicine. Workers in construction industry fall prey to collapsing buildings, not to mention the fact that they lack personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, steel-toed shoes and gloves that would protect them from injuries.

The same applies to manufacturing; people involved in steel and iron smelting and welding rarely use protective equipment such as ear plugs, gloves, goggles and coveralls. The hotel industry is prone to psychological hazards, particularly sexual harassment while horticulture and medical workers are exposed to bio-chemical hazards.

\"At the same time as working with fertilizers, workers in horticulture should be protected with masks, overalls, plastic aprons and heavy- business gloves, because exposure to chemicals over prolonged periods can harm their health. However, not a lot of of the workers are aware of this and so they go in unprotected and mix fertilizers.\"

As a result, they are put at risk of occupational skin conditions such as dermatitis and skin infections and cancers. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Protection, other people at risk of occupational skin diseases are those in health care, painting, construction, agriculture, food service, cosmetology, printing, and mechanics.

Protective equipment advised for individuals like those who face chemical hazards include hand protection such as gloves, body protection such as coveralls and aprons and respiratory protection such as respirators.

The department of Occupational Health and Safety advises that employers approach them to carry out risk assessment so that they can determine measures to reduce occupational hazards. One way hazards can be reduced is through the use of PPEs. But who needs what protective equipment?

Below is a guide.

Chief protection:

Construction workers, individuals that erect billboards, boda boda riders and users and other workers at risk of chief injury should be using chief protection.

Chief protection includes hard hats and helmets. Make sure you wear the right chief gear. For example, a hard hat meant for construction workers may not adequately protect a motorbike rider, because it is designed to deflect only falling objects.

Eye protection:

If you are working at a job where there is danger of flying objects, particles, liquids or any other objects that endanger the eyes, you need eye protection such as goggles or safety glasses.

Welders as well need eye protection to prevent eye damage that may result from light produced during welding.

Hearing protection:

Those at risk of hearing loss are individuals working in noisy places such as those in logging, factories, radio presenters and deejays. Hearing protection includes ear plugs and muffs.

Respiratory protection:

Steel and iron smelters, welders and agriculturalists are some of the people at risk of diseases resulting from the inhalation of metal ions, dust and chemicals from fertilizers and to offset this risk, they need respiratory protection such as disposable respirators (for dust), chemical cartridge respirators, gas masks and supplied air respirators.

Hand protection:

If you are exposed to biological or chemical hazards, say if you are in fields such as medicine and agriculture, you need gloves. The type of gloves you choose should be suitable to the task they are going to be used for. For instance, surgical gloves cannot be used by an agriculturalist mixing fertilizers.

Body protection:

The body can be protected by coveralls, aprons or full rain suits. If you handle dangerous chemicals, say you are an agriculturalist, you use liquid pesticides or work in a foundry, you need body protection.

Foot protection:

Factory workers, welders, need foot protection. Foot protection includes steel-toed work boots.

Interestingly, in the nineties these boots were all the rage in Kampala, thanks to hip hop music videos that glorified large, round-toed shoes and access via second-hand bales. As a result, an unprotected construction worker would clean up next a long day\'s work, slip on his steel-toed shoes and chief to the nightclub!

Fall protection:

Individuals that erect billboards, clean high-rise buildings\' windows and others working in places that can result in a fall, require fall protection such as harnesses and safety belts.

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