Assessment of the occupational health risks and hazards related to gold mining among gold miners in Engaju Sub-county in Buhweju District
Baguma, James Natweta
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Introduction and Background Artisanal small scale gold mines employ millions of people worldwide. However, they have been categorized as one of the most hazardous work places. In Uganda, like many other developing countries, occupational health and safety focused interventions have not been fully addressed by the relevant regulatory bodies despite the wide spread awareness of the dangers and the outcomes that are related to Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM). This study assessed the occupational health risks and hazards related to gold mining among gold miners in Katenga gold mine, Engaju Sub-county, Buhweju District in Western Uganda under these specific objectives; to identify the occupational health risks that the gold miners are exposed to in Katenga Gold Mine in Buhweju District; to identify the causes of the occupational health hazards that miners are exposed to in Katenga Gold Mine in Buhweju District and to determine the occupational health and safety measures that could be put in place to prevent the occupational health hazards that miners are exposed to in Katenga Gold Mine in Buhweju District. Methods used The study adopted a descriptive and cross-sectional with both qualitative and quantitative methods. It involved characterizing the socio demographics of small scale gold miners; work duration, work related injuries and health hazards (including causes, types, localization, severity and rates), training activities and employer attitudes towards safety. The study involved 118 respondents based on random stratified sampling and purposive sampling among the gold miners that would be at the gold mine and the key informants that were equally contacted for pertinent information. Results Back/Chest injuries, cuts and bruises constituted the most frequently occurring types of injuries accounting for 78.26%,32.61% and 32.61% of reported injuries respectively with Shafts collapse(77.5%) being the main occupational safety issue experienced in the gold mine. The leading underlying causes of back/chest injuries were working tools machinery (45.65%) and lifting heavy load (43.48%). The injuries were distributed across all body parts; back/chest (67.39%), hands (60.87%), legs (39.13%) head (36.96%), arms (50%).48.15% of the respondents revealed that they had heard about Occupational safety and 42.59% had been trained on basics occupational health requirements whole 57.41% were not. The study revealed that 64.81% of the respondents wore PPEs while at work and 35.19% did not. Majority of the respondents (45.37%) said the level of safety in the mine was low and that implementation of safety guidelines (59.26%) was highly suggested by the respondents as the aspect of safety that needed improvement. Lastly, the study revealed that 64.81% of the respondents suggested that there is need to observe safety measures to make the gold mine a better place. Conclusion Lack of information about Occupational health and safety and inadequate training on the standard operating procedures is increasing the occurrence of Occupational health risks and hazards in Katenga gold mine in Buhweju District. Recommendations Creating awareness about Occupational health and safety among gold miners in Katenga Gold mine, the local government should formulate policies on gold mining and enforce them. Training the gold miners on SOPs and use of PPE should also be done frequently.