Annals of African Medicine

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year
: 2020  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80--88

Determinants of occupational health hazards among roadside automobile mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis, Nigeria


Oche Mansur Oche1, Okafoagu Christina Nneka2, Oladigbolu Remi Abiola2, Ismail Raji2, Ango Timane Jessica2, Hashimu Abdulmumini Bala2, Ijapa Adamu2,  
1 Department of Community Medicine, Department of Community Health, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria
2 Department of Community Medicine, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Oche Mansur Oche
Department of Community Medicine, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Sokoto State
Nigeria

Abstract

Background: Roadside automobile mechanics are in the course of their work exposed to several hazards that put them at risk of severe debilitating health challenges. This group of workers, however, is reported not to know much about such hazards and to have little or no training on workplace safety. Aim: The study aimed to identify the determinants of occupational health hazards among roadside automobile mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis. Methodology: This was a descriptive, cross-sectional study, and using a two-stage sampling technique, a total of 205 roadside mechanics were recruited for the study. A semi-structured interviewer-administered questionnaire was used, and the data were imputed into and analyzed using IBM SPSS. Results: The mean age of the respondents was 31.10 ± 10.19 years, and over one-third of them (38.1%) were general vehicle repairers. Majority of the respondents had good knowledge of and attitude toward workplace hazards. However, a good proportion (91.0%) of the mechanics felt that their occupation was a risky one and 80.1% ate and 86.1% drank while working. Type of training and job description were the predictors of knowledge of workplace hazards. Job description was the only predictor of attitude. Burns, bruises, headache/dizziness, and cuts were the most reported work-related illnesses and injuries. Conclusion: Although most of the auto-mechanics were aware and had good knowledge of workplace hazards, they did not adhere to safety practices in the workplace, mostly due to nonavailability of protective apparels. There is, therefore, need for continuous health education under the platform of the auto-mechanics association so that they can voluntarily adopt safety practices in their workplace.



How to cite this article:
Oche OM, Nneka OC, Abiola OR, Raji I, Jessica AT, Bala HA, Adamu I. Determinants of occupational health hazards among roadside automobile mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis, Nigeria.Ann Afr Med 2020;19:80-88


How to cite this URL:
Oche OM, Nneka OC, Abiola OR, Raji I, Jessica AT, Bala HA, Adamu I. Determinants of occupational health hazards among roadside automobile mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis, Nigeria. Ann Afr Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Jul 11 ];19:80-88
Available from: http://www.annalsafrmed.org/text.asp?2020/19/2/80/285743


Full Text



 Introduction



The automobile service industry has a large group of workers with many being in the unorganized sector.[1] They are involved in numerous activities which expose them to many physical, biological, and chemical agents that can be hazardous to their health.[2] These workers are also prone to workplace accidents and injuries, many of which are preventable.[2] The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that yearly, approximately 270 million work-related accidents occur worldwide.[3] Employees in small and medium enterprises have been shown to be more prone to work-related hazards and risks.[4] This group of workers, however, is reported not to know much about such hazards and to have little or no training on workplace safety.[5] The control of occupational hazards decreases the incidence of accidents and work-related diseases, as well as improves the health and general morale of the labor force. This, in turn, leads to increased workers' efficiency and decreased absenteeism from work.[6] In most cases, the economic benefits far outweigh the costs of eliminating hazards.[6],[7],[8] In Nigeria, roadside automobile mechanics belong to the informal sector of the economy and the occupational problems and health needs of these workers are not well documented.[9] Therefore, their coverage by occupational health services is negligent and they are exposed to precarious conditions in the workplace.[10] Our study therefore was aimed at assessing the determinants of occupational health hazards among roadside automobile mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis, Nigeria.

 Methodology



This was a descriptive cross-sectional study carried out in Sokoto Metropolis located at Sokoto State, Northwest Nigeria. The study population comprised all roadside mechanics in Sokoto Metropolis. Sokoto State has 23 local government areas (four of which are within the metropolis), with a land mass of 25,972 km2 and an estimated population of 4,802,298 projected for 2017.[11] Farmers form the greater percentage of the population, and they majorly reside in the rural areas, while the rest are civil servants, traders, artisans, and people of other occupations such as tanning and dyeing (and these are mainly concentrated in the metropolis, being the center of commercial activities in the State).

The sample size for the study was calculated using the formula for cross-sectional descriptive study; using the assumption that the proportion of those estimated to use protective devices was 14% from a previous study[12] and a 10% nonresponse rate, a total of 205 auto-mechanics were recruited into the study. Only auto-mechanics directly involved in the vehicular repair were included in the study. Spare part dealers and hawkers were excluded. Participation in the study was limited to consenting respondents.

A two-stage sampling technique was used to recruit the study subjects. In the first stage, one auto-mechanic area (cluster) was selected using simple random sampling technique, out of four auto-mechanic areas (clusters) within Sokoto Metropolis. In the second stage, a systematic sampling technique was used to recruit 205 auto-mechanics, out of 615 (using a sampling interval of 3–N/n) in the selected area (after obtaining a comprehensive list of all the auto-mechanics in the selected area from the executives of the association of auto-mechanics in Sokoto).

The data were collected using a pretested semi-structured interviewer-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was pretested among auto-mechanics in another cluster – Sahara in Sokoto. The questionnaire contained both open- and closed-ended questions on sociodemographic characteristics and work profile of the respondents and the knowledge, attitude, and practice of safety measures. The questionnaire was adopted from previous studies.[12],[13] Research assistants were recruited and were trained on the objectives of the study and the general administration of the study instruments.

The questionnaire was checked for completeness and entered into IBM SPSS® Version 25 (NY, USA). The data were summarized using frequencies and percentages and were presented as tables. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were carried out to determine the level of associations and predictors of workplace hazards.

Each correct answer on the knowledge questions was awarded a mark, with no marks awarded for wrong answers. Knowledge was graded with scores ≥75 and <75 adjudged adequate and inadequate knowledge, respectively. Similarly, every correct answer to the attitude question was awarded one mark, with no marks for wrong answers. Attitude was graded with scores ≥65 and <65% adjudged as positive and negative attitude, respectively. The level of statistical significance was set at P < 0.05 at 95% confidence interval.

Approval for the study was sought from the Ethical Committee of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto. Permission to carry out the study was sought from the Association of Auto-Mechanics, and verbal informed consent was obtained from each study subject after detailed explanation of the objectives and the procedures of the study.

 Results



A total of 205 questionnaires were administered to the respondents. All questionnaires administered were completely filled, returned, and analyzed after validation (giving a response rate of 100%). The ages of the study participants ranged from 15 to 56 years, with a mean age of 31.1 ± 10.2 years. Of 205 auto-mechanics, 95 (46.8%) of them were single, only 1 (0.5%) was either separated, divorced, or cohabiting, with more than half, 104 (51.7%) of them having secondary school education [Table 1].{Table 1}

Majority, i.e. 169 (86.2%), of the respondents worked on full-time basis, with 118 (58.4%) working as general vehicle repairers/engine mechanics. One hundred and seven (53.2%) respondents had put in less than 10 years of working experience. One hundred and twenty (59.4%) respondents worked for more than 8 h a day, 76 (37.4) were apprentices, and only 20 (10%) had attended a training on hazard prevention [Table 2].{Table 2}

One hundred and eighty (90.0%) of the respondents had never attended any training on the prevention of hazards at workplace, 190 (94.5%) were aware of exposure to hazards at their workplace, 183 (92.4%) reported harsh weather conditions; 185 (92.0%) reported cuts and lacerations, and 145 (71.4%) reported incidents of fire outbreak as part of hazards at their workplace. One hundred and twenty-one (59.6%) of the auto-mechanics had good knowledge of workplace hazards [Table 3].{Table 3}

More than three-quarters, 87 (73.7%), of the general repair/engine mechanics had adequate knowledge of workplace hazard compared to 33 (39.3%) of body works/electrical and other mechanics. The difference was statistically significant, P < 0.001. All other sociodemographic variables were not associated with knowledge of work place hazard [Table 4].{Table 4}

Majority of the mechanics felt that their occupation was a risky one 183 (91.0%), dangers of their occupation can be reduced by any means 193 (96.5%), and the use of protective appliances were desirable at their workplace 193 (96.5%). Almost all 188 (93.5%) the respondents had positive attitude toward workplace hazards with 112 (96.6%) of the general repair/engine mechanics having positive attitude, while 75 (89.3) of body works/electrical/others had positive attitude and the differences were statistically significant, P = 0.04 [Table 5] and [Table 6]. [Table 7] shows that those with formal education were 96% less likely to have poor knowledge, P = 0.032 (or those with good knowledge were 5.1 times more likely to have good knowledge of workplace hazard). Roadside mechanics whose job involved general repair or engine repair were 4.6 times more likely to have good knowledge compared to car electrician, body works, and others, P < 0.001 (or body works, electrical, and others were 4.6 times more likely to have poor knowledge of workplace hazards). Those with inadequate knowledge were 82% less likely (or 5.5 times less likely) to have positive attitude [Table 8]. Those with apprenticeship training were 56.5% less likely to have poor practice (or those with apprenticeship training were 2.3 times more likely to have good practice), P = 0.029. Those who had good knowledge were 64.9% less likely to have poor practice (or those who have poor knowledge were 2.9 times more likely to have good practice), P = 0.003 [Table 9]. Majority of the respondents exhibited habits such as washing hands with fuel, 166 (82.6%), and applying fuel or hydraulics to wounds [Figure 1]. [Table 10] shows that there was a statistically significant relationship between job description and all the habits examined. A higher percentage of general repair/engine mechanics were involved in the harmful habits compared to the other mechanics, P < 0.001.{Table 5}{Table 6}{Table 7}{Table 8}{Table 9}{Figure 1}{Table 10}

The commonly experienced work-related illnesses were bruises 171 (89.5%), headaches/dizziness 159 (83.7%), and cuts and punctures 152 (80.0%). A higher proportion of general vehicle repairers/engine mechanics (61, 61.0%), experienced burns compared to body works and other mechanics, although this was not statistically significant, P = 0.302. Crushed digits, cuts and punctures, and headaches/dizziness were more common among the general repair/engine mechanics, and this were all statistically significant, P < 0.005 [Table 11] and [Table 12].{Table 11}{Table 12}

 Discussion



Auto-mechanics are involved in numerous activities which expose them to many physical and chemical hazards that could be detrimental to their health.[2] Auto-mechanics in this study were found to be predominantly males, and this is not surprising as the job is physically demanding and strenuous limiting female participation. This is in agreement with several similar studies.[5],[9],[10],[12],[13],[14] Over half of the respondents worked for over 8 h per day. This is not encouraging as most of the workers did not meet the limit of a maximum work hour of 8 h per day as stipulated by the hours of work convention 1930 (No. 30), which is an ILO standard aimed at providing protection for workers' safety and health, thereby allowing for a fair balance between work and family life.[15] Workers who spent more than 8 h per day may experience more stress at the end of the day, and this could also increase the risk of hazards at the workplace. A similar study in Uyo, Nigeria, is in consonance with this finding as over half of the respondents in that study worked for 9–12 h per day.[16]

In this study, majority of the respondents were aware of exposure to hazards at their workplace. This may not be unrelated to the fact that most of them had secondary level of education and had worked for more than 5 years and so were aware of the hazards. This is in contrast to a study in Ilorin, Nigeria, which revealed that auto-mechanics were not aware of the full extent of occupational hazards to which they were exposed.[14] Although this group of workers has been reported not to know much about hazards in their workplace,[4] it is impressive to note that workers in this study were quite knowledgeable as a large proportion of them had good knowledge of the hazards they were exposed to in the workplace. A similar study in Uyo, Nigeria, also found that eight out of every ten respondents had good knowledge of the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).[16] However, very few respondents in this study reported receiving any form of training on workplace safety. Adequate training has been found to lead to increased consciousness of workplace hazards and the role of safety measures in minimizing their effects. Other studies in Nigeria and India even revealed that no respondents received any form of training on workplace safety.[1],[16]

The study also found that more than half of the respondents with apprenticeship training (56.4%) and nonapprenticeship training (51, 65.4%) had adequate knowledge of workplace hazards, and these findings were statistically significant. A higher proportion of general vehicle repairer/engine mechanics had adequate knowledge of workplace hazard. This could be related to their more in-depth and extensive training compared to the other forms of mechanics.

The significant predictors of knowledge of workplace hazard in this study were education and job description. Respondents who had formal education were more likely to have good knowledge compared to those with informal education. Knowledge about workplace hazard may not necessitate any form of training because, with observation, it is apparent to see machines or equipment that may be hazardous to man. The general vehicle repairers/engine mechanics had higher odds of having adequate knowledge. This might be related to high literacy among the respondents, half of whom had at least secondary education. This finding highlights the importance of education even among apprentices. Another study by Sambo et al. in Zaria, Northwestern Nigeria, reported that the major determinants of hazard among roadside mechanics were training type, training duration, years of experience, and level of awareness of protective device.[13]

It is noteworthy that a good number of the respondents had a positive attitude toward workplace hazards. Psychological research has shown that an individuals' attitude toward personal responsibility for safety is closely related to their likelihood of suffering a workplace accident or disease.[11] Therefore, the positive attitude exhibited by the respondents meant that they were less likely to suffer a workplace accident or disease. Furthermore, most of the workers in this study felt that their work was a risky one. In a similar study in India, most of the mechanics opined that their work was also risky.[17]

Respondents' job description and knowledge of workplace hazards were the only variables associated with attitude of workplace hazards. However, after controlling for other factors, knowledge was the only significant predictor of attitude. This finding is important because, if knowledge of the mechanics is improved through training or adequate mentorship, then they can have positive attitude toward workplace hazards and therefore take adequate and necessary precautions to prevent workplace hazards.

The self-reported safety practices among the respondents were generally good. However, over a third did not wear PPE. PPE provides a physical barrier to chemical, physical, and biological hazards at the workplace when these hazards cannot be completely precluded.[18],[19],[20] The availability of some of the PPEs encouraged most of the respondents to use them. This would go a long way in reducing the risks associated with their work. However, a study conducted among auto-mechanics in Ibadan found that protective clothing was not used by the majority of workers.[5] In contrast to our findings, studies in Tanzania and Saudi Arabia reported low use of PPEs by auto-echanics.[21],[22] Several studies have alluded to the fact that PPE provides a physical barrier to workplace hazards.[23],[24]

A worrisome trend seen in this study was that a good proportion of workers ate and drank at the workplace. Being in the informal sector, there are no specially designated areas for eating or drinking, and so, the workers have no choice but to do so at the workplace. It is known that some of these workers who consumed their meals in the workshops were greatly exposed to lead and this has adverse effect on their health.[25],[26] This underscores the need for the provision of designated eating areas to reduce exposure to such risks.

The study also reported a poor habit practiced among automobile mechanics at workplace, with majority of them reported sucking fuel with rubber tubes, washing hands, and vehicle parts with fuel. They also applied fuel/hydraulic oil to treat bruises and burns. This was common among general vehicle repairer/engine compared with other groups. Fuel, for instance, if absorbed can increase blood lead and benzene levels.[27],[28] There have been reported cases of lead poisoning and death from ingestion and inhalation of fuel among mechanics.[29] Further, a man whose hands and forearms were heavily exposed to mineral oil hydraulic fluids in his job developed weakness in his hands.[30] The different groups of auto-technicians therefore came in contact with fuel while working which may have numerous negative health consequences that includes dermatitis, skin sensitization, eczema, and oil acne.[31]

The common work-related illnesses/injuries reported by respondents were mainly bruises, headache, dizziness, and cuts/punctures. Burns was reported in a significant proportion of the respondents. This was probably due to contact with soldering and welding operations on hot surfaces, exhaust pipes, radiator, and cooling system pipes.[31] Although majority of the respondents reported being aware of the hazards associated with their jobs, that awareness did not seem to help reduce the health problems they suffered. The bruises reported could have been due to failure to wear PPEs at work while crushed digits, cuts and punctures may occur during lifting of engine parts or falls. All these injuries could be worsened due to failure to use PPEs. Studies have revealed that working underneath vehicles and using heavy machinery and tool for several hours make auto-technicians prone to musculoskeletal problems and injuries.[32]

Headache or dizziness were often reported by at least eight of every ten general vehicle repairers, auto-electricians, welders, motor engine repairers, and panel beaters. Some of them may work for hours without eating since they do not have a restaurant nearby predisposing them to hypoglycemia that can present with headache and dizziness.

 Conclusion



The study reported good knowledge and attitude of automobile mechanics toward workplace hazards. However, their knowledge did not translate to good practices since most of them had poor practices generally, leading to work-related illnesses and injuries. There is need to conduct routine education on work-related hazards and ensure provision and utilization of PPEs during their monthly association meeting to reduce work-related illnesses and injuries. The provision of designated eating areas will go a long way to reducing exposure to workplace hazards.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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