A characterization of the physical injuries associated with small-scale gold mining in Ghana to guide policy formulation.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is inherently risky, but little is known about mining-associated hazards and injuries despite the tremendous growth worldwide of ASGM and the benefits it offers. The current study aimed to characterize the physical injuries associated with ASGM in Ghana to guide policy formulation. A cross-sectional survey was carried out in the Tarkwa mining district of the Western Region of Ghana in 2014. A total of 404 small-scale miners were recruited and interviewed regarding their occupational injury experiences over the preceding 10 years using a paper-based structured questionnaire. Nearly one-quarter (23.5%) of the miners interviewed reported getting injured over the previous 10 years, and the overall injury rate was calculated to be 5.39 per 100 person years. The rate was significantly higher for women (11.93 per 100 person years) and those with little mining experience (e.g., 25.31 per 100 person years for those with less than one year of work experience). The most injury-prone mining activities were excavation (58.7%) and crushing (23.1%), and over 70% of the injuries were reported to be due to miners being hit by an object. The majority of the injuries (57%) were lacerations, and nearly 70% of the injuries were to the upper or lower limbs. Approximately one-third (34.7%) of the injuries resulted in miners missing more than two weeks of work. One-quarter of the injured workers believed that abnormal work pressure played a role in their injuries, and nearly two-fifths believed that their injuries could have been prevented, with many citing personal protective equipment as a solution. About one-quarter of the employees reported that their employers never seemed to be interested in the welfare or safety of their employees. These findings greatly advance our understanding of occupational hazards and injuries amongst ASGM workers and help identify several intervention points.