Awareness of occupational hazards and utilization of safety measures among welders in Lira West Division, Lira City, Uganda.
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Introduction: It is evident that no occupation is without risk of hazards and workers are regularly exposed to numerous hazards and morbidities. The conditions in the workplace therefore greatly influence the health, safety, and productivity of workers. These hazards lead to a reduced Labour force and reduced productivity due to lost work hours, as well as an increase in poverty due to out-of-pocket expenditure on treatment of the diseases and injuries. Despite all these, there is low documentation and reporting of occupational injuries and diseases as well as utilization of occupational safety measures or PPE, the last line of defense against occupational injuries. Objective: This study assessed the awareness of occupational hazards, utilization of PPE, and factors associated with the utilization of safety measures among the welders in Lira west division, Lira city, Uganda and came up with baseline information that can contribute to the development of a policy for sustainable interventions towards occupational safety and health of welders and other workers. Methods: This was a quantitative cross-sectional study that used questionnaires and an observation checklist to collect data from 362 randomly selected Welders and 72 welding workshops in Lira west division, Lira, Uganda. Data was collected using paper questionnaires and entered into EpiData 3.02 software, then exported to Stata MP 14.1 ‘STATA statistical software for cleaning and analysis. The data were presented using descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, and mean) and infographics (graphs, and charts). Results: Of the 362 welders who participated in the study; 98.3% (356/362) were males, with a mean age of 32.1 (standard deviation of 8.8) years. Nearly half 40.9% (148/362) attained at least secondary education with one third 34.3% (124/362) who had work experience of 1-5 years and more than half 59.7% (216/362) worked for more than 10 hours per day (Table 2). The majority 95.9% (347/362) utilized PPE at work with 96.1% (348/362) aware of the PPE used and 96.4% (349/362) aware of hazards at the workplace. PPE availability at the workplace was 58.3% (211/362), and the most used PPE were eyeglass (98.3%), fire-resistant overall (55.5%), and safety boots (54.0%). The majority mentioned abrasion 83.2% (223/268) and cuts 57.5% (154/268) as the most suffered injuries and fume fever 76.7% (217/283), hearing loss 47.0% (133/283), and arc-eye or welders’ eye 45.6% (129/283) were the most experienced health problems by the respondents. The associated factors to PPE utilization were; knowledge of hazards [CPR: 12.89; 95% CI: 1.96 -84.95], secondary education [CPR: 16.28; 95% CI: 2.04 -129.66], more than 5 years of work experience [CPR: 0.17; 95% CI: 0.37 - 0.75], PPE availability [CPR: 9.06; 95% CI: 5.32 -15.45], health education received [CPR: 10.13; 95% CI: 5.96 -17.22], and institutional training [CPR: 16.93; 95% CI: 10.06 - 28.50]. Conclusion: Despite the high level of awareness of occupational hazards and related safety measures use at work, utilization of PPE varied since some essential PPE for hearing and respiratory were not used. Utilization of PPE was influenced by the form of training, knowledge of hazards, etc. This, therefore, underscores the need to implement the sensitization of the employers and employees on health and safety measures as one of the interventions to bridge the knowledge gap and improve workplace safety and health.