Occupational health has received limited research attention in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Much of the published data in this region come from South Africa and little has been reported north of the Limpopo. The present study was conducted to estimate the burden of occupational illnesses in Zambia and assess factors associated with their occurrence.
Data were obtained from the Zambian Labour Force Survey of 2009. Frequencies were used to estimate the prevalence of occupational diseases. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine the associations between demographic, social and economic factors and reported illness resulting from occupational exposures. Odds ratios (OR) from bivariate analyses and adjusted odds ratios (AOR) from the multivariate analysis together with their 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) are reported.
Data on 59,118 persons aged 18 years or older were available for analysis, of which 29805 (50.4%) were males. The proportions of the sample that reported to have suffered from an occupational illness were 12.7% among males and 10.4% among females (p < 0.001). Overall the proportions of respondents who reported suffering from fatigue, fever and chest infections were 38.8%, 21.7% and 17.1%, respectively. About two thirds (69.7%) of the study participants had stayed away from work due to the illness suffered at work; there was no sex differences (p = 0.216). Older age, being male, lower education level, married/cohabiting or once married (separated/divorced/widowed), and paid employee or employer/self employed were positively associated with having suffered from illness.
The findings from this study call for urgent effort for specific measures to prevent and mitigate the effects of occupational injuries. These interventions may include: public health campaigns, enforcement or change in work policies and regulations. Special attention may have to be made towards those who were more likely to suffer from occupational illnesses.