n Occupational Health Southern Africa - Process operators’ knowledge levels about noise : effectiveness of a noise training programme at a chemical manufacturing company - research

Volume 25 Number 6
  • ISSN : 1024-6274
  • E-ISSN: 2226-6097


Background: In South African industry, the employer is legally required to inform and train employees about the health and safety hazards related to noise exposure. The minimum training content is prescribed in the Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Regulations. Both the historical and recent cases of reported noise-induced hearing loss for compensation question the effectiveness of implemented hearing conservation measures, such as the information, instruction and training offered to employees.
Objective: The objective of the study was to determine quantitatively the knowledge levels of process operators enrolled in a hearing conservation programme at a chemical manufacturing company.
Methods: A quantitative, cross-sectional study design was used to describe current employee knowledge levels relating to the information received through the noise training programme. A questionnaire covering legal aspects of a noise training programme was used to collect data from 136 process operators. Data were analysed using Stata v13, and summarised using frequencies and percentages. Associations between the numbers of enrolment years in the training programme and employee knowledge levels were tested, using the chi-square test.
Results: The knowledge levels of 98 (75.3%) of the process operators, across all enrolment years, were equivalent to those of ‘learners’; 24 (18.5%) had knowledge levels equivalent to ‘developers’; and the proficient group comprised eight workers (6.2%). For all enrolment year categories, there was a significant relationship with employee low-knowledge levels.
Conclusion: The knowledge levels of the majority of employees were inadequate. Process operators with inadequate knowledge levels were ill-informed about several aspects of the noise training programme content. The implication of the findings from this study for the employer and other stakeholders, such as employees, health and safety committees, and the Department of Employment and Labour inspectorate, is that the noise training programme, although administratively compliant, needs to be overhauled to improve outcomes.

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