Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-8)

Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-8)
Tebyetekerwa Mike
Dept. of Textile & Clothing Technology
Kyambogo University
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256(0)773770312 // +256(0)701181383

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5.0 Introduction
This chapter presents the recommendations and conclusions of the Uganda apparel plant workplaces conducted in the ergonomics point of view and attempts to give solutions to problems found out as a result of the study.

5.1 Recommendations

5.1.0 Proper tools
Tools should be appropriate for the specific tasks being performed. Tools should allow the worker to keep the hands and wrists straight. (Ahasan, 2002)

5.1.1 Proper work postures

For seated and standing work, the height of the workstation should allow workers to function with elbows at 90 degrees. During seated work, if a good back support is not present or used, static postures occur which results in constant use of the back muscles. It is important to adjust the workstation in order to allow the worker to use the backrest. (Ahasan et al, 2000)

It is also important to adjust the worker’s chair to allow duties to be performed with their bodies in comfortable positions. The workstation and chair should be positioned so that the worker’s knees, hips, and elbows are at 90 degrees, which will reduce stress on the body. There should also be enough room to allow the worker to change their sitting position throughout the day. (Bongers et al, 2002).

Static postures can also occur during standing work. If the worker stands in one position for long periods of time, muscles of the back and legs will be constantly activated. This can lead to increased fatigue, and decreased blood circulation to the legs. During the day, workers should try to walk around to allow their blood to flow. As well, workers should try and sit for short periods of time while working to give their leg and back muscles a rest. (Blader et al, 1991)

Awkward wrist postures are one of the major causes of cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), tendinitis, and muscle strains. Awkward wrist postures are those which take the wrist away from the neutral position. Neutral position is when the hand is in line with the forearm. The workstation should be adjusted and the worker educated on awkward wrist postures, their harmful effects, and the signs and symptoms of CTD’s. (Chan et al, 2002)

5.1.2 Keep repetitive motions to a minimum
Workstations or tasks should be redesigned to reduce the number of repetitive motions that must be performed. To prevent ergonomic injuries workers should be encouraged to rotate tasks or take frequent, short breaks to stretch and relax muscles. Work stations should allow enough space for the tasks have appropriate working height, and provide proper seating. Manufacturing tools and machinery used in the firms should incorporate ergonomic design principles and should not require an excessive amount of force to operate. Some tasks should be automated or redesigned to eliminate repetitive movements and musculoskeletal injuries. (Halpern et al, 1997)

5.1.3 Use safe lifting procedures

Workers should avoid lifting objects that are too heavy. Use more than one person or a mechanical device to reduce the load. The workstation should not require the workers to lift objects above their heads or twist their backs while lifting. (Halpern et al, 1997)

5.1.4 Get proper rest
The workers need to rest their body and mind in order to prevent injuries. Workers should give their muscles a rest during coffee breaks, lunches and weekends by doing something different from what they do at job. For example, if a worker stands all day, while performing a job he/she should sit down to rest the legs and feet during the breaks. If a worker sits down, when working, he/she should stand up and walk around during breaks to give the back a rest and to increase circulation in the legs. By doing this the musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented. (Chan et al, 2002)

5.1.5 Other things to consider

Garment workers can avoid eye injuries by using proper shields on high-speed sewing machinery or safety glasses where appropriate.

Furniture and other equipment used in the plant should be ergonomically engineered to prevent injuries. The seats should adjust easily, have padded seat, have adjustable backrest provide lumbar support and have casters. The equipment and workstations should be adjustable, give sufficient space for the body and be used by both left-handed and right handed with ease.

Also, adequate task lighting at individual workstations can prevent eyestrain. Some garment manufacturing equipment can be very loud, so proper hearing protection may be necessary.

Because a garment factory uses many heated processes, it is important for workers to avoid heat stress by labeling and guarding hot surfaces and drinking plenty of water during their shift. Proper ventilation can help to reduce ambient temperatures and ensure worker comfort.(Sarder et al, 1996)

Training of the workers on the proper use of machines and equipment is very important, proper posture, proper work method, when and how to adjust workstations and about safety measures and first aid.(Vihma.T, 1981)

5.2 Conclusions

This study examined the ergonomic work conditions in the apparel manufacturing plants in Uganda. Questionnaire survey responses and observations of the physical workplace pertaining the working conditions showed clear evidence of work practices, workplace conditions and equipment designs that were detrimental to productivity, health and safety.

The garment industry should therefore focus and develop a good working conditions to reduce the injuries created to their workers since there is ample room for ergonomic improvements in the clothing industry. With proper training and instruction, machine guarding, personal protective equipment and ergonomically designed work systems, garment workers can manufacture products in safe and healthy workplaces.

It seems that the tradition of management, owners and workers themselves know and understand that the ergonomics conditions in the plants are worse but they are ignorant about the solutions. Therefore there is need for ergonomic interventions to make changes that have been considered. It is, therefore, logical, as done in this study, to suggest changes that are modest, for gaining acceptability to management.

Recommendations made to management in this study that included furniture and other equipment improvements were combined with improved line balancing of the manufacturing process. The implementation of these recommendations should yield significant improvements in productivity and the effects on the workers over a relatively short period of time.

Unless the work culture changes significantly, it would always be difficult to implement changes that alleviate suffering and ill health among workers in societies where unemployed people wait in abundance for a chance to work, and where their introduction into the workplace is seen as an alternative to spending money and other resources to improve work conditions

My main ojective was to evaluate the working conditions in the garment plants of Uganda from an ergonomics/human factors perspective and to suggest possible solutions to deal with observed problems in order to avail a better working environment with minimum or no threats to the workers.

Since the problems have been identified and solutions stressed out in the light of the problem. Therefore if solutions are taken, the workplace for the worker should have a decreased risk of injury and also to improve the link between the worker and their environment.


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About the Editor-in-Chief:

Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant and researcher on online business promotion. He is working with one European textile machinery company as a country agent. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

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