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Occupational Hazards in Textile Sector

Srabani Mallick

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Do you have any idea about the occupational hazards in the textile sector? Can occupational hazards have any effect on productivity? How can such problems be prevented? These questions come up when discussing occupational hazards in the textile sector. However, this article will try to answer all these questions and give an outlook on occupational hazards as much as possible

What is Occupational Hazard?

Occupational hazards refer to both long-term and short-term risks associated with the workplace environment.  It can include many types of bets, including biological hazards (biohazards), chemical hazards, physical hazards, and psycho-social hazards such as mental stress and psychological imbalance.

Biological Hazard: A biohazard is a physical substance that threatens the health of humans and other living organisms.  These include fungi, bioactive substances, pathogenic micro-organisms, viruses, toxins (from natural sources), spores, etc.

Chemical Hazard: Chemical hazards are an example of occupational hazards caused by exposure to chemicals in the workplace.  Long-term exposure to such chemicals at work increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, which can have adverse health effects. Examples are gases, fumes, vapors, dust, and liquids.

Physical Hazard: A biological hazard is an agent or situation that can cause harm with or without contact. Examples are moving objects, unsafe or misused equipment, excessive noise, poor lighting, heat, vibration, etc.  Physical hazards cause injuries and illnesses in various industries. Noise exposure causes stress-related disorders, respiratory conditions and behavioral changes resulting in sleep disorders. Another hazard is exposure to low and high temperatures in the work environment, which increases the likelihood of physical accidents.

Psychological Hazard: A psychological hazard is any occupational hazard that affects workers’ mental health. Some also suffer physical injuries or illnesses.  It also affects other colleagues’ ability to participate in the work environment.  Psychosocial hazards relate to the social and economic context of work. Workplace violence and occupational stress are examples of psychosocial hazards.

Occupational Health Disease in the Textile Industry

The textile industry has various divisions like spinning, dyeing, printing, etc.  Many hazards and risks in such industries affect the physical and mental health of professionals.  Diseases arising from the textile industry are noise-induced hearing loss, heart-related and vision-related diseases, neurotoxicity, and other skin diseases.  Recent studies have shown that the amount of dust and debris generated by picking cotton from the field using machinery is more significant than that of picking cotton by hand. Workers are exposed to dust from various materials such as cotton, wool, flax, hemp, sisal etc.  When inhaled, these dust particles enter the lungs through the respiratory tract leading to various respiratory disorders in the workers.  Possible disorders in previous studies are listed below:


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Prolonged exposure to cotton dust can cause a disease called byssinosis, commonly known as a brown lung.  Byssinosis is very different from bronchitis. The disease initially causes difficulty in breathing, which later develops into a severe and sometimes life-long disability.  In 1938 in the United States, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reported that more than 30,000 people were infected with byssinosis, and about 100,000 were at high risk of developing the disease.  Examination of men in blow rooms and card rooms showed that men under 50-60 were most affected by byssinosis. A total of 190 participants were evaluated for respiratory function, of which 115 (60.52%) were affected by byssinosis.

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Diffuse Lung Disease

This type of disease is characterized by degeneration of the interstitial connective tissue between the lungs and alveoli. Connective tissues provide stability to the alveoli to maintain a proper fit during inhalation. A study found that a man aged 66 had been exposed to cotton dust for nearly 50 years but had no symptoms of byssinosis. After a severe examination, organic cellulose fibers were found in the lungs of the man, and this situation could be called cotton dust pneumoconiosis.

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Dry Cough

Workers working in the cotton dust exposure zone are affected by a chronic cough. Chronic cough differs from regular asthma, usually characterized by persistent cough for more than 3 months. Inhalation of allergic cotton dust irritates the throat resulting in a dry cough.  A Nafees study on textile workers in Karachi and Pakistan, involving about 372 adult men in 15 textile mills, showed that about 7.5% of the subjects suffered from chronic cough. This study states that a person experiences a cough for at least 90 consecutive days in a year for at least 24 months.

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Discomfort in Breathing and Chest Constriction

There is a significant difference in breathing ability between exposed and non-exposed workers in cotton dust. A study conducted by AV Hinson involved 656 exposed subjects and 113 subjects not exposed to cotton dust, indicating that 7.2% of chest constrictions and 9.9% of total experienced respiratory distress and the study also noted that there was some significant difference between exposed and non-exposed workers. Another record that was conducted by C.H.Laraqui, in a study of a total of 224 exposed and 80 unexposed individuals found shortness of breath to be common in 16.5%.

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Toxic Liver Disease:

Dimethylformamide used in aramid fibers is a solvent of excellent properties that contributes to a major percentage of military fabrics. N, N-Dimethyl amide is toxic to various animals such as cats, rabbits and rats. Dimethylformamide is a carcinogenic chemical responsible for cancer and toxic liver disease. It also affects the female reproductive system and leads to birth defects.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

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Noise in the textile industry refers to any unwanted signal. High noise levels in the processing department can cause lifelong hearing loss. Different noise classifications exist, such as continuous noise, impact noise, and discontinuous noise. Tamil Nadu regulations show that for 8-hour exposure, 90 dBA for constant noise and 140 dB for impact noise not exceeding 100 impacts per day. Noise ranges from 40 dBA to 100 dBA in various sections of the textile industry. The following table describes the noise levels recorded in different departments of a textile company in the Lagos metropolis.

Engineering and maintenance85-8987
Washing and bleaching83-8584
Dyeing and printing80-8583
Packing and storage64-7568

How does Occupational Hazard Depend on Productivity?

1. Whenever an accident in the industry, production slows down, resulting in a loss of production.

2. Exposure of personnel to hazardous substances may cause injury. As a result, injured employees may not be able to contribute meaningfully to production efficiency, leading the industry to less profit and financial losses.

3. Occupational hazards destroy materials and machinery that lose time and production.

4. If Occupational hazards are not adequately managed may lead to injury to trained, skilled employees resulting in financial loss.

5. Occupational hazards can also lead to employee turnover, affecting the quality of skilled manpower in an organization.

6. If occupational hazards are not properly and effectively controlled, it can lead to bad publicity for the organization.

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How to Prevent Occupational Hazards?

Identifying workplace hazards: The first thing to do is to thoroughly check the workplaces of the organization for any potential hazards, such as all electrical equipment, electrical cables, and machinery. Also, if any equipment in the organization needs repair, it should be repaired as soon as possible and replaced if necessary.

Reduce workplace noise: Workers exposed to high-decibel noise generated by machinery in factories can cause hearing loss.  So, reducing the noise content in one’s workplace is crucial.  Workers should be provided with protective gear to deal with such problems, and all employees should be trained to use protective equipment effectively.

Reduce Work Environment Stress: In any industry, the overall productivity of the workforce plays a vital role in the work environment.  The nature of work in the industry refers to the temperature of the employee’s workplace, the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals, etc.  Also, if workers are exposed to severe working conditions, their physical and physiological well-being is adversely affected.  Therefore, it is advisable to take appropriate protective measures and train them for the safety of the workers.

Conduct Regular Checks and Mock Drills: It is essential to conduct regular checks and mock drills every three months to ensure safety at your workplace and prevent occupational hazards. Well-maintained equipment is the most essential part of any workplace. PAT testing is a simple method to maintain electrical safety in your workplace. On the other hand, Mock drills will help employees deal with emergencies in a calm and collected manner. So make sure to conduct a mock fire drill at least once in 6 months at the workplace.



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