Occupational Safety in Uganda's Small Scale Sector Deplorable

2861 Views Kampala, Uganda
Hundreds of workers in the informal small-scale industries in Uganda are being exposed to serious hazards with consequent risk to health. The most vulnerable group of workers is employed in Small scale industries like welding, spray painting, woodwork and metalwork, where use of protective gears is very low. Mathias Nsubuga is a 22-year-old man. He dropped out of school due to lack of school fees and set up shop at a carpentry workshop at Kubiri along the Bombo-Gayaza road. Nsubuga joined more than 150 workers in the flourishing furniture market at Kubiri, which supplies the bulk of the wooden beds and chairs in the city. With all the energy of a young man, Nsubuga delves into his work with passion using the saws to cut timber into shape. He does this with no mask on his sweating face, hence providing a sponge that soaks in all the dust accumulated from his work. Nsubuga acknowledges that he has suffered frequent bouts of flu and cough as a result of the dust. His uncle who also worked as a carpenter in this workshop, died a few months ago, from lung related complications. Nsubuga like many other workers is aware of the occupational and health hazards associated with his work, but says that the absence of a clear policy on the informal sector and the lack of permanent workplaces do not encourage investment in occupational health and safety. // Cue in:sfx ... Cue out: # namala nafa// Nsubuga needs 25,000 shillings to buy a mask and glasses, but says that this is not a priority compared to the need to raise monthly dues for electricity and other utilities. The six workers at Nsubuga's workshop spend long hours exposed to saw dust as they curve out wood to give shape to the chairs and beds. But non-of the workers here seems bothered about the importance of the protective gears. // cue in: Bo Problem eyabwe ... Cue out: # set enene// A research by the international agency for research on cancer, (IARC) shows that the fine particles of wood dust inhaled into the nasal passages or lungs are considered the most dangerous. They remain air borne for hours and are invisible to the eye yet the most harmful to the lungs. Joseph Matovu gave up his job as a machine operator in carpentry workshop after serving for only six years. He attributes his decision to the failure by the employers to prioritize expenditure on protective gears for their workers. // cue in: Amasanyalaze ... Cue out: # to quit my job SFX // Matovu says that he found it unbelievable that most employers prefer to focus more on ways of maximizing profits to investment in workers safety measures. Christopher Kasule, a carpenter for 16-years is nursing a disjointed finger after he was hit by a piece of timber two weeks ago. He had to meet his own medical bills. Kasule wears a pair of torn gloves made out of threads to protect his hands from injuries and scratches. He says that although they are not very effective they provide partial protection. Kasule says he cannot afford to buy a pair of gloves every week which would have been more ideal. International Labor Organization (ILO), estimates that 2.2 million people die from work-related accidents and diseases around the world every year. ILO says that work related deaths appear to be on the rise.


Tagged with: small sector labour