DERMATOLOGIST WARNS CEMENT CASUAL WORKERS OF HEALTH RISK

Date:

Casual workers working in cement companies without protective kits may suffer dire health complications over a prolonged exposure to cement, a dermatologist has warned.

The comments from Dr. Mwale, a dermatologist at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), come after many cement and other industrial companies in Malawi continue to flout labour laws by ignoring protective measures to their workers, posing a great health risk to their lives.

Of particular concern are casual labourers and pedestrians being exposed daily to cement along the Haile Selassie road in Blantyre where Nu-Cement Hardware shop, a distributor of Lafarge cement, operates.

Dr Mwale said prolonged contact to cement can cause serious ailments which may take so long to heal.

“You may wish to know that dust from cement irritates the skin, nose and throat, causing choking and wheezing that can lead to respiratory allergy known as occupational asthma. But with the passage of time, a person can suffer from a fatal lung disease called ‘silicosis’ as well as blindness. Again, continuous contact between skin and cement may lead to a person developing severe skin ulcers,” he explained.

For this reason, Mwale said: “There must be a total care when using cement and workers are advised to wear protective boots, gloves, and overalls with long sleeves, goggles and masks. But, it is very unfortunate here in Malawi to see employers ignoring labour laws; as a result, many people are suffering in silence.”

Smeared with cement dust all over his body, Ali Kakowa, one of the casual workers at Nu-Cement Hardware shop, looked dazed when told he was risking his health being in such a state but was quick to accuse his employers of failing to provide them with a full protective kit.

“We have little protection here. Our faces are not fully covered when we do our work. There are no goggles, no boots, just a few worn out masks and overalls. For a long time we’ve been complaining but our bosses just ignore us,” he said.

“Besides, the work we do here is very hard; we are not safe when we carry bags of cement from a truck, anytime a traffic accident can occur. We work like slaves as you can see; no gumboots but, where else can we go? And the wages we receive are not enough to cater for our families.”

On whether he feels pain from the experience of shouldering bags of cement, Kakowa said: “Of course, I feel it. I have some breathing problems and have been experiencing some strange pains in my ribcage whenever I carry bags of cement.”

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Robert Ngwira
Attended Our Future Private Secondary School in Rumphi from 2006-2009 Holder of Diploma in Journalism from Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) Hobbies, reading newspapers, going out with friends, listening to radio and watching football. Email: info@faceofmalawi.com

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