Background Since 1995, Traumatic injuries remain as the leading cause of hospitalisation in Sri Lanka for consecutive years. Among traumatic injuries, road traffic injuries are leading. It accounts for 22% to 25% of all types of injuries. For both fatal and non-fatal Road Traffic Injuries (RTI), heavy vehicles are involved frequently. It was revealed from the statistics available at National Transport Medical Institute (NTMI) in Colombo, Western Province of Sri Lanka that 10.38% of heavy vehicle drivers met with accidents were found medically unfit for driving and they face a number of risk factors. The study was undertaken with the objective of describing the risk factors and occupational health hazards among heavy vehicle drivers.
Methods A descriptive cross sectional study design was adopted with a systematic random sample of heavy vehicle drivers attending to renew driving licenses at NTMI, the national institute with its branches responsible for conducting medical examination of heavy vehicle drivers enabling them to obtain or renewal of driving licenses in Sri Lanka during a period of one month. Data were collected using a questionnaire and a document review (medical examination and investigations) using a check list.
Results The majority of heavy vehicle drivers in study population comprise young male drivers with a mean of 33.9 years. They work for extended period of time (mean working duration is 11.3 hours). The study showed a clear evidence of high incidence of Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease and Gastritis (13.8%). The conditions like impaired distance vision (4.4%) Hypertension (0.8%) and Diabetes Mellitus (1.2%) were also found. Nonspecific backaches and pains (10.9%) and chronic cough (9.7%) were common complaints. The habits of cigarette smoking (45.1%), beetle chewing (34.9%) and alcohol consumption (60.5%) were obviously high, compared to national level. The leading occupational health hazards encounter with heavy vehicle driving were identified in the study. They included frequent exposure to diesel exhaust (8.5%), overload vehicle (26.8%), uncomfortable gear lever operation (13%), uncomfortable foot pedals (14.6%), uncomfortable steering wheel operation (17%) and driving seat vibration (10.1%). The options available in vehicles for drivers comfort looked insufficient in most of the heavy vehicles (availability of Air Conditioning (4.8%), Automatic gear transmission (0.8%) and availability of head rest in driving seat (43.4% ) were not adequate. The emerging hazard of “inattention blindness” in driving due to use of cell phones while driving (18.2%) was also noted among Sri Lankan heavy vehicle drivers in significant level.
Conclusions The study shows that road safety research needs to go beyond common RTI risk factors and analyse risks involved with the health status of drivers. And it suggests that strengthening of quality control of heavy vehicles, health education and regular monitoring of health status of heavy vehicle drivers is vital to improve the status of countries injury prevention efforts.
- Heavy Vehicle Drivers
- Road Traffic Injuries
- Occupational Health Hazards
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