Background Occupational injuries are a major cause of global disability and death. Agriculture has been shown to be the most hazardous of all industries, particularly in jobs that require intense manual labour. Rubber tapping- the process of extracting rubber from rubber trees- involves sharp tools, steep terrain, and heavy loads; putting tappers at risk for injury. This study assesses injury prevalence and risk factors among Sri Lankan rubber tappers, and identifies possible interventions to improve worker safety.
Methods A mixed-methods questionnaire was administered to 300 Sri Lankan rubber tappers between September and November 2014. Information was obtained on demographics, injuries, work environment, behavioural characteristics, and depression. Open ended questions were included to allow participants to provide additional comments.
Results 300 rubber tappers reported a total of 594 injuries in the previous 12 months, which resulted in 1080 days of work missed. Knife cuts (n = 182) and skin irritation (n = 176) were the most common injuries. Snake bites were less common (n = 26) but the most severe injury type, resulting in an average of 9.8 (SD = 10.7) days of work missed per injury. Predictors of injuries varied by injury type; they were gender (falls, snake bites), working an additional job (knife cuts), tapping with a two handed approach (skin irritation), and depression (skin irritation, falls). No workers reported wearing personal protective equipment. Qualitative findings suggest that four interventions could address most injuries: 1) use of safety glasses for upper tapping, 2) landscaping of rubber lands, 3) provision of eyeglasses for the vision impaired, and 4) use of equipment to reduce manual transport of latex.
Conclusions Sri Lankan rubber tappers experience a heavy burden of work-related injuries and have limited safety equipment. The four interventions identified by this research could help reduce the risk of occupational injury to rubber tappers.
- Occupational Injuries
- Rubber tappers
- Sri Lanka