A vulnerability and capacity assessment of selected tea factories and estates within Kericho County
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In the recent past, Kenya has witnessed several incidences of disaster. The intensity of the losses incurred reveal that the county is far from being prepared to handle or mitigate the extent of their impact. Factory disasters are rated the worst catastrophe the world over. Therefore, the need for research findings on how to step up capacity for disaster management can not be overemphasized. This is what this study entails. In formal sociological terms, the word disaster may be defined as 'an event concentrated in time and space in which a society undergoes a severe danger and incur such losses to its members and physical appurtenances that the social structure is disrupted and the fulfillment of all or some of the essential functions of the society is prevented' (Fritz 1961 pg. 65 in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences vol. 4 pg 202.) This study's main purpose was to assess whether there are contingency measures that will mitigate the intensity of hazards in the factory using a vulnerability capacity assessment (VCA) tool. The specific questions that this study sought to answer were: To find out the frequency and extent of hazard occurrence within the factory; to establish the elements at risk within the factory; to establish the capacity there is to deal with disasters and to establish vulnerability levels of tea estate workers. Data collection involved conducting interviews with the factory management and the factory employees. VCA tool integrates all employees in identifying needs by involving them in the planning process in order to mitigate the impact of disaster and facilitate meeting their own needs. Effective safety health committees are a major capacity in the area of disaster preparedness and response; thus their need to have personnel with specialized training. It also clearly emerged that disaster preparedness as a concept or plan ought to be on the agenda of all organizations as it helps inform priorities. The main area that paused a high level of vulnerability identified by all groups were: machine injuries, pollution, fire, diseases and epidemics of grave danger was the level of ignorance by a large percentage of factory workers-without sufficient knowledge of risks they are exposed to, their lives are at risk. Finally, effective communication between the safety departments, the medical team and the employees on the mechanism of preparedness, in terms of expected hazards for disaster and response is important. The study established that the tea workers are highly vulnerable to accidents even though most cases go unreported. In defining safety levels, the respondent cited poor working conditions, inability to use safety equipment and little or no training as their major concerns. This was attributed the low standard of education by most workers. The findings indicated that only 28% of the respondents had undergone drills while 62% had not and 10% had no idea what drills are. The low safety awareness among casual workers were attributed to high turnover rate, low and lack of knowledge of safety equipment use, lack of regular early warning signs and measures like drills. In general it emerged that the employer focuses more in making profit at the expense of staff safety. Through this veA study it is clear that the two factories researched on - Kimugu Tea Factory and Estates and Momal Tea Factory and such factories across country should develop specific programmes for disaster preparedness. The need to identify sections of their organizations to implement them is crucial. Effective communication between the safety department, medical team and employees on mechanisms of preparedness in case of expected hazards and response is paramount. This study has come up with several other recommendations regarding disaster management that if implemented will assist strengthen the capacity of disaster preparedness and reduce the vulnerability of elements at risk to hazards posed. The key among them are: Establishing participatory based initiatives to strengthen employee hazard awareness and capacity to deal with vulnerabilities; holding practical safety training which would enable employees to relate theory and action in disaster events; forming safety committees to develop vulnerability analysis and establishing specialized response mechanism for disaster; defining basic requirement for mitigating disaster and strengthening emergency Medial Disaster Systems (EMS). And more importantly, considering inputting disaster preparedness into elementary school curriculum. This could act as a huge mitigating measure given that majority of the casual factory workers are either form four or class eight drop-outs.