Occupational injuries in welders – results from a six month follow-up study
Masood Ali Shaikh, Irshad Ali Shaikh
Chester Health Department, Chester City Hall, 1 Fourth Street, Chester, PA 19013, United States of America
Background: Injuries are an
under recognized public health problem globally. We assessed the number and type
of occupational injuries in welders, in a prospective manner. Methods: A cohort of 208 welders was
re-interviewed twice at three-month intervals to determine the type and
frequency of injuries in the welders primarily involved in the automobile
sector, in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan. Data was
analyzed for frequencies and counts with STATA 8. Results: Cumulatively, 105 injuries were reported by 61 welders in the
two follow-ups, who took 28 days off as a result of these injuries, in the past
six months. Four welders reported multiple injuries involving the same injury
episode. None of the welders reported any permanent disfigurement as a result
of these injuries. Conclusion: Occupational
injuries are common in the welders working primarily in the automobile sector
in the twin cities of
Key Words: Injuries, Welders, Pakistan
Health directly impacts labor
productivity, as output is increased in workers with better health.1
According to World Health Organization, there are about 250 million cases of
injuries per year at work worldwide.2 Occupational injuries are a
neglected area of health policy in Pakistan. Neither National Health Policy
approved by the Federal Cabinet on
Non-industrial welding workers are predominantly involved in the automobile or real-estate sectors; welders involved in the later sector generally undertake work entailing welding of mufflers or repairs following automobiles following accidents or crashes. Often it means lying underneath the vehicle for carrying out welding/repair. Welding produces ultraviolet and infrared radiation at damaging levels5. The welding process can result in various hazards such as bodily injuries on the face and limbs, fire and explosion.6-13 Studying multiple occupations with various study designs, welders in occupational settings like construction and automobile factories have been identified as having a high risk of ophthalmic injuries due to burns compared to other occupations.6-10 International Labor Organization lists bodily including eye injuries due to sparks and fall related injuries especially common in welders.13 Ranking of occupations based on cost-related injuries has identified welders as a high risk occupation.12 While ocular melanoma and cataract have been reported as a long term sequels associated with welding.9,11,13
The welders are
part of an informal occupational sector and like most other informal
occupational sectors in
This study was undertaken to determine the burden of
occupational injuries in a prospective manner in a cohort of welders working in
the automobile sector in the twin cities of
MATERIAL and Methods
A baseline survey was of 208
welders was completed in the twin cities of
Baseline survey in addition to demographic
information, collected information about type, involvement of body part, and
sequel of having sustained work related injuries in the past three and twelve
months. While during the two subsequent follow-ups same information about work
related injuries was collected. The original group of 208 welders was
re-interviewed twice i.e. from 4th to
The average age of the
cohort of 208 welders followed was 30.3 years (range 15 – 63 years). Everyone
who reported for work on the day of follow-up visits was interviewed. During
the first follow-up 199 (95.7%) welders were successfully re-contacted and
interviewed, while in the second follow-up 201 (96.6%) were re-contacted and
interviewed. No one refused to be interviewed. The number and type of
occupational injuries reported at the two follow-ups is presented in
Table-1: Number of occupational injuries reported during the past three months, at two follow-ups, by welders.
Type of Injury
Burns on face
Burns on limbs or body
Foreign body in the eyes
Total number of injuries
Cumulatively, 105 injuries were reported by 61 welders in the two follow-ups, who took 28 days off as a result of these injuries, in the past six months. Four welders reported multiple injuries involving the same injury episode. None of the welders reported any permanent disfigurement as a result of these injuries. And neither any welder reported knowing any welder who has either died as a result of occupational injuries or was too sick to come to work.
During two follow up visits, interviewers specifically inquired about the nine and seven individuals who were not available for first and second follow up interview respectively. Reason for their absence on the day of interview, at their work place was determined from either their colleagues or neighbors. None of the missing individuals were absent from work, owing to either any work related injury or death.
Welding process uses heat to
melt and fuse together metal pieces. In
The results of this first follow-up study of occupational injuries in welders indicated that injuries in welders involved primarily in automobile sector are fairly common, based on three month recall period, as over 20% of welders reported sustaining occupational injuries requiring either self-treatment or visit to a physician in the first follow up, while almost 30% in the second follow up. These results are somewhat higher than the baseline study, which reported 18.7% welders sustaining injuries in the past three months15.
During the two follow-ups at the interval of three months, over 95% of the original group was successfully re-contacted. The higher reported rates of injuries in the two follow-ups could be attributed to the recall bias, as during the follow-up interviews welders were probably more likely to have recalled the injuries, knowing that there will be follow-up interviews.
The baseline study reported that 18.7% and 30.3% of
welders had sustained occupational injuries in the past three months and one
year, respectively. Although, the reported number of welders who sustained
injuries was higher in the two successive three-month follow-ups, the type and
frequency of occupational injuries sustained were essentially similar. As
baseline study reported the most common (40.3%) injury type was foreign body in
the eyes followed by burns on limbs or body (37.5) and facial injury/burns
(22.2); the same was the profile in the two follow-ups. A previous Pakistani study of 36 welders in
Results from this study need to be interpreted with
caution. The major limitation of this study was the use of convenience
sampling, which limits generalizability of results as representative of welders
There is a need for nationwide population based survey on occupational injuries in the country, using indigenously standardized instruments, for better understanding of correlates and determinants of occupational injuries in the country. Prospective studies with longer duration of follow-ups at shorter intervals would be required to better understand the epidemiology of occupational injuries in the welders; this will further elucidate seasonal pattern of occupational injuries. Additionally, these studies will help policymakers to develop effective and meaningful occupational standards for the safety of labor force, both in the formal and informal sectors in the country.
Three month prevalence of occupational
injuries ranged from over 20% to almost 30% in two successive follow ups of
welders working primarily in the automobile sector in the twin cities of
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Address for Correspondence:
Dr. Masood Ali Shaikh, 301 W, 24th Street, Chester, PA 19013, USA.