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166 IS IT WORTH DOING RESEARCH TO DEVELOP AWARENESS AND INFORMATION MATERIALS? A CASE STUDY OF SILICOSIS ELIMINATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
Dust control is fundamental to the elimination of silicosis, but awareness and information are necessary to drive its implementation. Materials to inform and create awareness are common, but few are underpinned by research on the target groups and are thus not directed at issues important in overcoming barriers to improved practice. Hence this formative research commissioned by South Africa’s Mine Health and Safety Council to develop materials for health and safety representatives (representatives), mine workers and mine management. This paper presents examples of research findings from representatives and mine workers and considers the value of doing the research.
A structured questionnaire was administered to 260 representatives in their preferred language on 10 gold mines from three major companies to explore knowledge and perceptions about dust diseases, and perceptions of representatives’ role in promoting dust control. Fifteen focus groups were conducted with mine workers to determine knowledge and to identify barriers to behaviour change.
Forty per cent of representatives had 7 or fewer years of formal education (a basic literacy index); 65% did not know the word silicosis (non-specific terms were used); their advocacy role was not appreciated (only a small minority understood systems for reporting dust problems). Computer-aided training was the method liked least by representatives. Mine workers’ knowledge about most aspects of dust, silicosis control and diseases was at best vague with dangerous misconceptions. There was a lack of trust of management, unions, representatives and health services. Production bonuses or quotas were seen to be paramount; under these conditions, safety and health (dust control) was not seen as a priority.
The nature and content of materials and support activities to promote dust control were substantially influenced by research findings, for example, to build self-efficacy and stress long-term health benefits over short-term financial gain. The formative research cost about US$200 000, …