A study done in France to identify risk factors of laryngeal and hypo pharyngeal cancers showed that there was an excess risk among auto service workers (odds ratio-2.2, 95% confidence intervals-1.3-3.9) Another study done among automobile radiator repair workers in New York city revealed that 67% of workers had blood lead levels in excess of permitted hazard levels. A similar study assessing lead exposure in automobile workers in India showed a significant increase in levels of lead and an associated significant reduction in levels of zinc. A 10 years followup study among automobile repair workers in The Netherlands, to assess cause specific mortality showed an increased mortality due to mesothelioma, urinary tract cancer, pancreatic cancer and ischemic heart disease. A proportionate mortality ratio analysis of deaths in New Hampshire state of the United States of America among automobile mechanics, revealed increases in mortality from leukemia, lymphoma, oral, lung, and bladder cancers apart from an increased mortality due to buy here pay here Birmingham cirrhosis of liver and suicide. A cross-sectional study done in Egypt, to study contact dermatitis in automobile repair workers, showed the prevalence of contact dermatitis to be 18.4% against 3.9% prevalence among the control group which involved book sellers. In a study to assess the lung function among automobile repair workers in Kolkata city, spirometry of the participants showed that 25.8% had obstructive impairment, with battery workers and spray painters at a higher risk.
This study was done among automobile repair workers in November 2012 to assess the prevalence of health problems among these workers and their awareness about personal protection equipment (PPE)
A pilot survey was undertaken to gauge the prevalence of health problems in automobile repair workers and their awareness about PPE. A cross-sectional study was designed, involving 120 automobile repair workers from Vellore corporation limits. Recruitment was done after obtaining a written informed consent and the participants were administered a local language translation of a semi-structured, pilot tested questionnaire to find out exposure to potentially harmful environments, use of PPE and prevalence of health problems. Peripheral sensory neuropathy was assessed with 2 g monofilament and peak expiratory flow rates (PEFRs) were found out using a peak flow meter. Workers who had entered the profession in the last 1 year were excluded from the study. Data entry was done using Epi-info 7.0 (CDC, Atlanta, USA) and analyzed using SPSS 17.0 (IBM Inc, USA).
The survey was done during the month of November 2012, and involved a total of 120 automobile repair shops of which 106 (88%) workers responded. The age of the respondents ranged from 17 to 67 with a mean age of 30.8 and a standard deviation of 9.9. Nearly, 75% of the participants were in continuous employment in the same industry for more than 10 years. Of the surveyed workers, only 24 (22.6%) had completed high school education, with the rest mostly discontinuing formal education early. Only 4 (3.7%) of the automobile repair workers had received formal training or certification. Work mostly learned through apprenticeship with various senior workers. About 17% of the surveyed automobile workers were owners of the establishment too with the rest being paid employees. A majority (84.9%) did multiple general work in repairing and servicing of the automobile, while 16 (15.1%) were specialized workers involved in complex works such as radiator servicing, battery repair, painting work, gearbox works, etc. The mean income of the workers surveyed was around INR 5350 a month.
All of the surveyed workers reported more than 40 h of working time per week with 3 (2.8%) worked in shifts. Nearly, half (45.3%) of the workers were not satisfied with their job, for reasons like low wages and strenuous work mentioned by most. Half (47.2%) of automobile workers reported stress at workplace and 26 (24.5%) said it adversely affected their family life in various ways. Seventy-seven (72.6%) workers did not have any social security while the rest had either provident fund or employees’ state insurance scheme with only 7 (6.6%) having provision for paid sick leave. Thirty-three (31.1%) of the workers said PPE was available for use in the workshop, but only 9.4% of them use it regularly due to various reasons [Table 1].
Half (53) of the surveyed workers were unaware of any occupational diseases associated with their line of work, though 32 (30.2%) reported exposure to dust, 81 (76.4%) had exposure to heat, 50 (47.2%) mentioned exposure to chemicals which included battery acids, engine coolants, gear oil, engine oil, brake oil, lubricants, etc. Most (90.6%) of surveyed workers were exposed to petroleum products in some part of their work with 18 (17%) of the workers were involved in Battery servicing and electroplating works, which involved possible exposure to heavy metals.
Nineteen (17.9%) of the workers reported cough or breathlessness lasting for more than 2 weeks, in the last 6 months while 31 (29.2%) had dyspepsia or abdominal pain during the same period. Forty-seven (44.3%) participants reported muscle and joint pains in the last 6 months while only 6 (5.7%) had any skin rash or skin irritation. Twenty-six (24.5%) reported of un-intentional workplace injuries in the last 6 months. A focused clinical examination of the participants revealed that 10 (9.4%) had pallor, 11 (10.4%) had features suggestive of contact dermatitis, while 6 (5.7%) had wheeze or crackles on auscultation. Seventeen (16%) of the workers had an average peak flow, <300 L/min and 50 (46.2%) had impaired sensations in their feet, when tested with a 2 g monofilament [Table 2].