Some 157,000 labourers in 42 localities had occupational diseases by the end of last year. Occupational deafness was detected in 64.4% of the labourers, followed by silicosis (10.2%), and occupational chronic bronchitis (5.1%).
Reports from 57 localities who medically examined 1.2 million labourers showed high percentages of respiratory diseases (25.6% of the total number of patients), digestive diseases (16%), and musculoskeletal diseases (8.3%).
38-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Bao in Bien Hoa city recently lost 11% of his hearing after 20 years working at a steel production company in the Bien Hoa 2 Industrial Park.
Despite having tinnitus prior to discovering the illness, Bao thought it was not serious and continued working.
Bao’s illness could have been detected earlier if he had got an annual health check, said doctor Nguyen Thi Thu Sang, head of the Occupation Disease Department at the Dong Nai Centre for Occupational Health and Environment Protection.
Most workers do not get health checks until their illness is serious because they are not aware of the risks of the occupational diseases they face, according to Sang.
Some are willing to take their chances in exchange for high salary and good benefits.
It is difficult for medical units to conduct periodical health checks on factory workers if their employers are not willing to help, according to Sang.
“Factories and enterprises are not paying enough attention to work safety and haven’t enforced the use of work safety equipment such as earplugs and masks,” she said.
Some enterprises chose to take their employees to cheap medical facilities instead of those equipped with modern equipment and skilled staff, which reduces the quality of health checks, she said.
Survey results from the HCM City Public Health Institute on 1,000 tailoring factory workers show that 93% feel exhausted after work, 47% have experienced body fatigue, 15% are burnt out, and some 80% have musculoskeletal pains.
However, less than 10% of workers who were surveyed had received healthcare, the results show.
Representatives from the Ministry of Health (MoH) said not enough attention had been paid to ensuring work safety and providing healthcare for labourers.
Limited awareness of both employers and labourers of work safety and hygiene, as well as limited financial resources, are some reasons for poor prevention of the diseases, the MoH said.
Some 2.3 million work-related deaths occur worldwide every year, two million of which are caused by occupational diseases, according to statistics from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Occupational diseases haven’t caught as much public attention as labour accidents although they cause six times as many deaths, according to the ILO.
The organisation called for an “urgent and strong” global campaign to prevent the rise of occupational diseases last month.