The study looked into the occupational hazards and illnesses among women workers in 10 semiconductor industries in Cavite Export Processing Zone. Industries were classified as either small, medium or large scale based on the number of workers in the company. This study looked into the various occupational hazards confronting our women workers such as exposure to chemical, biological, physical and ergonomic problems. This is important because out of the 27.5 million Filipinos in the labor force, 36.9 % are women. Majority of these women are in export processing zones as shown in the DOLE 1994 data where the sex ratio in these areas is an average of 75 % women as against 25% men.
Observational analysis was done using stratified sampling technique was used. The methodology consisted of workplace ambient monitoring, biological monitoring (blood lead monitoring) among women workers who were exposed to lead, survey questionnaires to all women workers in all identified workstations, interviews and focus group discussions with selected workers, and medical records review of all the current medical records of the female workers were done. Chi-square analysis was also done to establish the association between hazard exposures and illnesses at the level of confidence set at alpha=0.05. Data were encoded, processed and analyzed using SPSS 9.0. Descriptive Statistics was mainly used in analyzing the data.
The results of the study showed that the physical agent which is most prevalent in all the industries was noise (100% in small, 80% in medium and 67% in large scale industries). All industries had particulate matter as the most prevalent chemical agent. Repetitive motion was the prevalent ergonomic hazard (100% in all industries). Most of small and large scale industries provided all the administrative and engineering control measures needed for their facilities. Most of the small and large scale industries provide all the required personal protective equipment (PPEs)for their workers. There were adequate entrances/exits, ventilation, housekeeping and toilets in most small and large scale industries. Overcrowding was also present in all medium scale companies.
The most prevalent disease per category were allergy (94.8%), tension headache (86.8%), cough and colds (60.4%), conjunctivitis (71.4%), rhinitis (71.8%), hypertension (79.1%), gastroenteritis (50.4%), urinary tract infection (98.2%), amenorrhea (90.6%), muscle pain (50.1%), anemia (98.1%) and cuts(65.5%).
Selective interviews were conducted among women workers at the Export Zone. The following problems are mentioned by the interviewee: lack of ventilation, lack of protective equipment, low wages, lack breaks between work and long working hours, need for overtime, frequent accidents/injuries during night shifts, prolonged standing, increased incidence of joint pains (wrist and hand), muscle pain, low back pain colds, headache, and eye strain, and lack of health benefits for instance among workers whose fingers were cut in an accident. When hazards and illness were correlated with alpha set at 0.05, high noise levels in the workplace was associated with migraine and hearing loss(p=.000). Heat in the workplace was also shown as statistically significant in the occurrence of skin allergies. Arthritis was associated with extreme cold temperature (p=.003). Other significant associations included tiredness and fatigue with vibration of machines, radiation exposure with boe pain, extreme fatigue and skin allergies, dust exposure with eye strain, viral exposure with cough and colds, PTB, and fatigue.
The blood lead results of the 285 subjects revealed that 40.7 percent of the total number of subjects had blood lead results within the 21-30 ug/dL which is considered by the Department of Health as inimical to health of workers. The most vulnerable age group include the 21-30 category which represented 87.5% of the total respondents and 83% of the 20-40ug/dL blood lead level.
Blood lead results of 285 female workers reveal,l that none has exceeded the threshold limit value which is set 50ug/dL. The mean age of workers is 24 years old and mean blood lea results is 15.62 ug/dL.
Based on the questionnaires, the top five most frequent occupational hazards among female workers are: back pain,excessive work, heat, poor ventilation and use of chemicals. Disorderliness of the workplace is their highest concern (46.6%). The most prevalent illness for female workers in this study is common cough and colds (59%). Irritability is the most frequent among respondents (61.7%).
The results showed that hazards are prevalent in the workplace that may be associated with certain occupational illnesses like respiratory problem and musculoskeletal problems. It is recommended that massive information dissemination must be conducted among workers and management int he electronics industries regarding the results of the study and the proposed health and hazard assessment program.