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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH HAZARDS AND SAFETY PRACTICES AMONG LABORATORY TECHNOLOGISTS IN OBIO-AKPOR LGA, RIVERS STATE
The study focus on identifying occupational hazards among laboratory technologists. The survey research design was adopted and the population of the study consist of lab technologists in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, rivers State that played the role of a respondent in this research work which amounted to 450 respondents. The researcher used used random sampling method to determine the sample size by selecting 5 lab technologists from 25 labs in 5 selected societies, this makes up 150 respondents. Data for this study was collected from primary and secondary sources. The study concluded that there is low occupational health hazards and safety practices among laboratory technologists is quite significant and remarkable in Obio-AkporLGA, Rivers State. However, the study went further to recommend that attitude of laboratory technologist should be in good tract but attitude ofsense ofbelonging towards department needed attention, hence, safety culture can be nurtured and developed.
1.1 Background of the Study
Laboratory technologists face so many occupational health hazards and have to engage in some safety practices to avoid these hazards. Laboratory technologists are confronted with chemical hazards, physical hazard, and biological hazards. Laboratory technologists or technicians assist physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases by collecting samples and performing tests on tissues, blood and other body fluids. Laboratory technologists are the people that are found in hospitals or health centres that collect samples and perform tests to determine if there is presence of illnesses of diseases. (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012).
Laboratory technologists are at a high risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne pathogens as they perform their clinical activities in a hospital. They are exposed to blood borne pathogens such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) from sharp injuries and contacts with blood and other body fluids. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate in the year 2002, sharp injuries resulted in 16,000 hepatitis C virus, 66,000 hepatitis B virus and 1,000 HIV infections among healthcare workers worldwide. There is no immunization for HIV and hepatitis C. It becomes important to prevent infection by preventing exposure. (Pruss-Ustun, 2005).
Recapping, disassembly and inappropriate disposal increase the risk of needle stick injury. The incidence rate of these causative factors is higher in developing countries for the higher rate of injection with previously used syringes. Developing countries where the prevalence of HIV infected patients is very high record the highest needle stick injuries too. Needle stick injuries were also reported as the most common occupational health hazard in a Nigerian teaching hospital. (Berguer, 2004).
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 2.5% of HIV cases among health workers and 40% of hepatitis B and C cases are as a result of these exposures (The World Health Report, 2002). Irrational and unsafe injection practices are widespread in developing countries. Unsafe injections and the consequent transmission of blood borne pathogens are suspected to occur routinely in the developing world. It was estimated that each person in developing countries receives an average of 1.5 infections per annum. About 90-95% for injections are therapeutic, while 5-10% is given for immunization (Hutin, Hauri, and Armstrong, 2000). It has been shown that between 70% and 99% of these injections are unnecessary while at least 50% are unsafe in 14 of 19 countries in five developing world regions with data. (Simonsen, Kanea, Zaffran and Kane, 2007).
Occupational safety of laboratory technologists is often neglected in spite of the greater risk associated with occupational exposure to blood, inadequate supply of personal protective equipment and limited organizational support for safe practices. There are series of procedures for preventing occupational exposures and for handling potentially infectious materials such as blood fluids. These procedures are known as standard precautions or safety practices. Laboratory technologists are to practice regular personal hygiene, use protective barriers such as gloves and gown whenever there is contact with mucous membranes, blood and body fluids of patients; and dispose of sharp objects, body fluids, and other clinical wastes properly.
The potentially infectious nature of all blood and body substances necessitates the implementation of infection control practices and politicise. There are more than 20 blood-borne diseases, but those of primary significance to health care workers are hepatitis due to either the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs) due to human immune-deficiency virus (HIV). (Calver, 1997).
In 1981, the CDC proposed the concept of universal precautions, originally designed to protect health workers from exposure to blood-borne pathogens. The definition and recommendations of universal precautions was revised by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and given the new name of standard precaution which combines the major features of universal precautions and Body Substance Isolation (BSI). Poor compliances to universal precautions is a risk factor for sharp injuries and it doubles the risk to get an injury (A. Jacob, F. Dick, 2010).
Under the standard precautions, blood and body fluids of all patients are considered potentially infectious for HIV, HBV and other blood borne pathogens. In addition, standard precautions stimulate that health workers (laboratory technologists) take precautions to prevent injuries caused by needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments or devices during procedure and disposal. The components of standard precautions include; hand hygiene, personal protective equipment such as use of gloves, cap, gowns, mask, safe waste disposal system, correct sterilization and disinfection process, appropriate use of instruments and equipment, vaccination, education, screening of blood for transfusion and post exposure protocol (Centres for Disease Control. Recommendations for Prevention of HIV Transmission in Health Care Settings). To reinforce the above existing components, three other areas of practice have been added; respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette), safe injection practices, and use of masks. Reports indicate that standard precautions are effective in preventing both occupational exposure incidents and associated infections. Compliance with universal precautions has been shown to reduce the risk of exposure to blood and body fluids. (Immunization Practices Advisory Committee).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Laboratory technologists are at risk of occupational hazards as they perform their clinical activities in the hospital. The occupational health of the health care workforce of about 35 million people representing about 12% of the working population has been neglected. They are exposed to blood borne infections by pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, from sharp injuries and contacts with deep body fluids (Pruss et al., 2005, Lee et al., 2005). It has been found that the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS via needle stick incidents is 0.3% (i.e, 1 case per 300 needle stick incidents). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 5.6 million health workers worldwide, who handle sharp devices, are at risk of occupational exposure to blood borne pathogens. (AmiraAwobusuyi, 2014)
These injuries are usually under-reported for so many reasons such as stigmatization should have HIV results from such incidents. The 2005 survey conducted in Nigeria reported an overall HIV sero-prevalence of 4.4%. This high prevalence in the country poses an occupational risk to laboratory technologists HIV/AIDs constitutes a major health problem in Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the countries worst hit by the HIV/AIDs epidemic, with about 2.99 million people currently infected. Over a million people (1.70 million) have already died from AIDs since it was first reported and confirmed in Nigeria in 1986. (Cohen, 2012, USAID, 2014).
The health consequences of these infections are enormous; symptoms of HCV infection may not manifest until 20-30 years after viral transmission. Also, about 60-85% of HCV infections result in liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is no immunization forHCV and HIV, it becomes important to prevent infection by preventing exposure. This study addresses the hazards faced by laboratory technologists. Occupational safety of laboratory technicians is often neglected in spite of the greater risk of infection due to higher disease prevalence, low level of awareness of the risks associated with occupational exposure to blood, inadequate supply of personal protective equipment and limited organizational support for safe practices. There are so many laboratory technologists in Obio/AkporL.G.A and are faced with so many hazards and there is low level of awareness of the risks of the occupation. They are exposed to blood, tissues and body fluids.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to investigate occupational health hazards and safety practices among laboratory technologists in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
- The study will identify occupational hazards among laboratory technologists.
- Identify the risk factors that contribute to these hazards.
- Determine the health problems associated with laboratory technologists.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1. To examine the effect of physical hazard on safety practices among laboratory technologists.
2. To examine the effect of chemical hazard on safety practices among laboratory technologists.
3. To examine the effect of biological hazard on safety practices among laboratory technologists.
4. To examine the effect of ergonomic hazard on safety practices among laboratory technologists.
1.5 Research Questions
1. What are the effects of physical hazard among laboratory technologist?
2. What are the effects of chemical hazard among laboratory technologist?
3. What are the effects of biological hazard among laboratory technologist?
4. What are the effects ergonomic hazard among laboratory technologist?
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study will contribute to knowledge on occupational health hazards and problem of laboratory technicians in Nigeria. Careful adherence to standard precautions or safety practices protects the laboratory technologies and the people around them from infections.
Standard precautions include hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (e.g gloves, gowns and masks), needle safety and safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces, disposal of sharp objects, body fluids and other clinical wastes property. (Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of HIV and hepatitis B virus, 1988).
This study will enable laboratory technologists be aware of the hazards they face and adhere to their safety precautions which would therefore avoid the spread of infection among patients.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The survey to be used for this study is the questionnaire which would focus on laboratory technologists in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The questionnaire will contain series of questions with a choice of answers which is to be answered by laboratory technologists. A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Questionnaires can be thought of as a kind of written interview. Questionnaires provide a relatively cheap, quick and efficient way of obtaining large amounts of information from a large sample of people.