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Indian Journal for the Practising Doctor

Study of Injuries among Construction Workers in Ahmedabad City, Gujarat

Author(s): Shah CK, Mehta H

Vol. 5, No. 6 (2009-01 - 2009-02)

ISSN: 0973-516X

Shah CK, Mehta H

Dr Chintu K Shah, MD, (Assistant Professor), Department of Community Medicine, PDU Medical College, Rajkot, Gujrat. Dr. Harshvardhan Mehta, M.D. (P.S.M.); M.B.A. (H.R.M.); D.H.M.; A.F.I.H, (Assistant Professor), Department of Community Medicine, B.J. Medical College, New Civil Hospital Campus, Ahmedabad.

Correspondence: Dr. Harshvardhan Mehta, 1571, Shriramji’s Street, Opp.lakhia Street, Khadia, Ahmedabad 380 001, Gujarat State. [Phone: (079) 22 14 59 30; Mobile: 0-94275-22075; Email: rharshvardhan(at)gmail.com]

Abstract

Research Question: What is the magnitude and nature of injuries among construction workers, and what are the various contributory factors?
Objectives:
To know the prevalence rate of injuries among the construction workers.
To find out the nature of injuries among the construction workers.
To study the factors which contributing to such occupational injuries injuries.
Methodology: Sixteen construction sites were selected randomly from four zones of Ahmedabad city.
Participants: 240 construction workers, selected from 16 construction sites, were interviewed using a pre-tested proforma; information related to injuries suffered during the last one year was collected.
Results: During the previous one-year 55 workers (22.92) sustained injuries. 7.08 workers had eye injury due to foreign body falling in the eye. Fall from the height was almost three times higher in male workers than the female workers. Injuries were common among the workers recruited for less than 1 year (18.92). 60.42 injuries were seen among the illiterate. As far as all injuries are concerned, no sex difference was observed. Scaffolding workers made the highest-risk group reporting maximum number of injuries. No fatal / disabling injury was reported during the year.
Conclusion: Eye injury was the commonest form of injury among the construction workers. Along with the helmets, protective gear for eyes needs to be provided to construction workers.

Keywords: Construction Workers, Injuries, Work Experience, Illiteracy

Introduction

Although the development of technology with induction of sophisticated machinery has eased human beings in most sectors of working life, the construction work is still labour-intensive. In the developing world, most construction workers have to perform high-risk work for meagre wages.1

There are only a few industries as hazardous as construction work. Work at elevation, work involving heavy overhead loads, operation of heavy machinery and power tools, confined space work, temperature extremes and material handling demands combine to increase the risk of injuries2. The construction workers are regarded as the prototype of extremely demanding jobs tagged as 3-D’s: dirty, dangerous and difficult.3

In the past few decades, relatively high and stable economic growth in India has led to a rapid increase in construction and influx of unskilled workers to major cities. As of April 1997, construction workers formed 4.97% of the total worker-force in India4. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation estimate (1999-2000) out of the 36.9 crore workers, 1.7 crore were in the construction industry5. In 2000, there were 0.23 crore rural construction workers and 0.32 crore urban construction workers in India.6

Despite the gigantic numbers, the actual information about their status is quite scarce. To know more about them, the current study was undertaken by the researchers.

Material and Methods

The present study was carried out from November 2004 till January 2005. For randomization, the Ahmedabad City was divided into 4 zones – North, South, West and East. From each zone, 4 areas were selected and from each area 15 workers were selected for the study.

The construction sites were classified into larger and smaller site. A larger site was defined as having 10,000 sq. meter or larger floor area. If it was a multi-storey, then the total area for all floors was calculated. The protocol called for one randomly selected small site and one randomly selected larger site from each area to be chosen for further study. For collecting the relevant information, the pre-tested proforma was used. The workers were interviewed and examined physically. For the purposes of the study ‘Skill’ was defined to include the knowledge about how to conduct the activity currently engaged in. Depending upon the level of skill, the workers could be classified as7

  1. Skilled construction workers: Bricklayers, Masons, reinforced concrete workers, tile and roof layers, plasterers, supervisors, foremen, carpenters, plumbers, blacksmiths and electricians working in the construction industry.
  2. Semi-skilled workers: white washers, pipe layers and construction workers not elsewhere classified.
  3. Unskilled workers included loaders and un-loaders.

Results

Injury at work place:

No fatal / disabling injury was reported among the workers during the preceding one year. As far as the injury is concerned, the person prevalence rate was 22.92 % (55/240) and the prevalence rate of injury was 25.42 % (61/240).

The main causes of injury were foreign bodies in the eye (7.08%), being struck by hammer or other instruments (6.25%), fall from height (5.0%), being struck by a falling object, electrical injuries and being struck by vehicle, in descending order of number. The rate of injuries per 100 workers is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Distribution of workers according to the rate and causes of injury

Sr. No. Causes of Injury No. Rate per
100 workers
1 All causes 61 25.42
2 Fall from height 12 5.00
3 Particle in eye 17 7.08
4 Struck by
falling object
7 2.92
5 Struck by hammer/ instrument 15 6.25
6 Struck by vehicle 4 1.67
7 Electrical injury 6 2.50

Some particle in the eye was one of the leading cause of injury for both male and female workers. Fall from the height was almost three times higher in male workers than their female counterparts, because male workers were solely involved in skilled and semiskilled occupations like scaffolding and centering work. Workers being struck by falling objects was almost 2-3 times higher among the female workers (as they work on the ground), being exposed to any thing falling from above. Other causes of injuries such as being struck by a hammer/instrument or by a vehicle and electrical injury were almost equal among the male and female workers.

Work duration and injury

It was observed that as the experience of the worker in the construction industry increased, chances of sustaining injuries decreased. The highest number of injuries occurred in the group with a work experience of 1-4 years (27.21%) followed by the group with less than 1 year (18.92%) and more than 4 years (13.33%).

Injury and Educational status of workers

The highest number of the workers with injuries during the preceding year 1 year were illiterate (60.42%) followed by those, who received primary (15.84%) and secondary education (11.49%), thus suggesting that education was helpful in decreasing injury proneness. No worker reported injuries during the preceding 1 year in the higher secondary and university/technical /other higher educational group (Table:4). This might be theoretically due to the acquisition of knowledge of working with the instruments and learning how to avoid injuries. Literate workers can protect themselves from injury compared to illiterate workers (Z=6.27, P<0.05). [1]

[1 – However, the incomparably less number of patients in the higher secondary group will preclude any such premise
(Ed).]

Table 2. Injuries among workers as per the gender

Cause of Injury Male (n=163) Female (n=77)
No. Rate per
100 Male
Workers
No. Rate per
100 Female
Workers
Fall from height 10 6.13 2 2.60
Particle in eye 12 7.36 5 6.49
Struck by falling object 3 1.84 4 5.19
Struck by
hammer/instrument
11 6.75 4 5.19
Struck by vehicle 2 1.23 2 2.60
Electrical injury 4 2.45 2 2.60

Table 4: Educational status of workers and Injury

Educational status No. Workers who
were injured
Prevalence rate
per 100
workers (%)
Illiterate 48 29 60.42
Primary 101 16 15.84
Secondary 87 10 11.49
Higher Secondary 4 00 0.00
University/Technical/Other
higher education
0 00 0.00
Total 240 55 22.92

Type of work and injury

Half (50%) of the workers doing scaffolding work and one-fourth (25%) of the workers digging land, reported clay reported injuries during the past 1 year. Almost one-third of the workers in still banding, masonery and centering work reported injuries during the last 1 year. The least number of injuries were reported during the last 1 year by the workers carrying sand, cement, bricks, concrete, etc. (12.15%) and prepareing mixture of water, sand and cement (19.23%) group (Table 5).

Table 5: Injuries and type of work

Type of work No. Workers
injured
Prevalence
rate per
100 workers (%)
Carry sand, cement, brick, concrete, etc. 107 13 12.15
Prepare mixture of water, sand and cement 26 5 19.23
Scaffolding work 8 4 50.00
Mason 24 8 33.33
Digging land, carrying clay 12 3 25.00
Still banding 42 15 35.71
Centering work 21 7 33.33
Total 240 55 22.92

Discussion

As very little information is available on the health of the construction workers, this study will provide the base line information. The prevalence rate of injury among the less experienced group was 24.29% and in the illiterate workers it was as high as 60.42%. Provision of training and motivating the workers to use the safety devices would reduce the injuries to a great extent.

In this study, prevalence rate of injury was almost equal (25%) among male and female workers. Fall from height was significantly higher among the male workers (6.13%) than the female ones (2.60%). As the male workers were involved in more skilled occupations like scaffolding and centering and as they worked at height, chances of fall were significantly higher among them. The female workers were mostly involved in unskilled occupations like loading and unloading, and as they worked on the ground chances of injury by some falling object were significantly higher among them (5.19%) than their male counterparts (1.84%).

In a study carried out in Ahmedabad,8 51% of the women and 14% of the men had experienced injuries, with consequent work and wages loss. This difference could be explained from the fact that the study was based on construction workers drawn from Nakas who were engaged in repairing or extension of already built houses while in the present study construction workers engaged in erecting new buildings were selected.

A study carried out in the Union Territory of Delhi revealed that 70.6% workers were unskilled; of them 83.3% had rural background and 86.6% were illiterate. The injured workers with less than 1 year in the job formed 79% of total.9

A very little attention has been paid to the health of the construction workers so far in our country. There is a need for comprehensive studies. To address the health problems of this largest, poorly organized industrial workforce.

Reference:

  1. Health and Safety in Construction Work. Asian- Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, 2004; 11: (1); 3-7.
  2. Katherine L., Lisa Nessel- Stephens, Sandra, Robert, Laura, Surveillance of Construction Worker Injuries Through an Urban Emergency Department. J Occupat Med, 1994; 36 (3): 356-363.
  3. Yuji, Toshio, Mari et al., Asbestos-related Diseases among Construction Workers in Japan. Asian-Pacific Newsletter, 2004; 11 (1): 10-14.
  4. http://planningcommision.nic.in/data/stat/statistics6.pdf
  5. www.labour.nic.in/annrep/annrep 0304/ English/ chapter 08 pdf
  6. www. indianembassy.org/ indianinfo /India_2000/chapters/chap 12 pdf
  7. Jeemol U, Rani U. Insecurities of Informal Workers in Gujarat,India, SES Papers 30, 2002, International Labour Organisation, Geneva.
  8. Construction Workers’ Campaign, SEWA, Ahmedabad. http:// sewa.org/ campaigns/ construction.htm
  9. “Construction Workers: Gross Negligence”, Economic and Political Weekly, 1995; 30 (26): 1540.
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