Occupational safety and health hazards in artisanal gold mines in western and Nyanza region, Kenya

  • Charles Buyela
  • Paul Njogu
  • Gideon Kikuvi
  • Joseph Kamau
  • Charles Mburu
  • Dan Westervelt
Keywords: Occupational safety and health, hazard, ‘PM2.5 and PM10, miners


Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASSGM) has experienced rapid growth due to mineral value and increasing poverty level in western and Nyanza regions in Kenya. The sub-sector has hazardous tasks occasioned by chemical exposures to such substances as mercury, physical strain and repetitive movements associated with extractive tasks challenge which vary from region to region and site to site. This paper reports findings of a study conducted on ASSGM in Kakamega (Roster mine and Ikolomani) and Migori (Masara-Suna West and Francis - Suna East) counties to assess workplace safety, health risk and good health practice among a population of one thousand four hundred (1400) miners and non-miners to identify and determine levels of health hazard in the sector. Descriptive cross-sectional design that involved stratified sampling technique with three broad stages was used: dividing mining and non-mining population in sub-groups (miners, foremen/supervisors, and head of households) at sites in administering to them research instrument using a simple random technique. Levels of airborne particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) were determined both at mining sites and away from mining sites using low cost monitor sensor (PA-11-SD Purple air sensor). The low-cost monitor sensor data was corrected using collocational data obtained using a continuous particulate monitor (BAM 1020) reference monitor in a similar location. SPSS version 25.0 was used to analyse qualitative data. The study found that common sources of hazards included handling elemental mercury with bare hands during amalgamation and exposure to fumes during refining raw sponge-like gold. Aaverage 24-hour variation cycle for (PM2.5 and PM10) was 117.11±14.47 and 195.18±15.35 μg/m3 in ambient air respectively at all mining sites. Histograms were used to present frequency distribution of variations for (PM2.5 and PM10) from mining activity. The average humidity and temperature variations of artisanal gold mining were in the range of (45-35) percentage (% RH) and (26-28)0C respectively. The study concluded that there were high risk cycle exposures to airborne particulate matter contaminants at artisanal gold mining sites as compared to non- mining sites. The study recommends that the county government should give priority to developing safe guidelines to ASSGM. The central government should also come up with guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health in artisanal gold mining to facilitate compliance with OSH requirements in the sector and offer effective participative training.


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eISSN: 1561-7645