Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-3)

Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-3)
Tebyetekerwa Mike
Dept. of Textile & Clothing Technology
Kyambogo University
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256(0)773770312 // +256(0)701181383
Email: miketebyeks@gmail.com

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2.4.1 Assembly Department
The primary tasks in assembling clothing are:
  • Sewing
  • Loading automated rail system
2.4.1.0 Sewing
Assembly tasks have many different components that must be considered in an ergonomic assessment including:
Sewing fabric
Sewing fabric


  • supply and removal of garments,
  • sewing table,
  • chair,
  • floor surface,
  • foot pedals,
  • lighting,
  • hand tools and
  • work organization.
Ergonomic problems and solutions for each of these components.

Supply and removal of garments
Supply methods used to hold the various pieces of the unfinished garment at the workstation prior to the operator assembling them. Removal – deposit of the garment once the operator has completed the job. The operator has to reach to both the supply and removal locations at least once in the work cycle.

Common problems
Boxes. Large boxes that are low to the ground create an awkward reach and bend during each pickup.

Tables. Tables are often made of overturned or full boxes. Tables are in poor locations, unstable or garments fall off them so operators have to reach to the floor to pick them up.

Workhorses. Workhorses are too low creating an awkward reach for the operator and are too smooth, causing the garments to fall off.

Attachments to the sewing table. Wooden bars attached to the sewing table are used as the supply location. These bars are sometimes located too far from the operator, are too small or allow the garments to slip off them.

Non-automated rail system. Inflexible system with poor work organization requires operators to manually remove full hangers from the rail to transport them to another workstation. This is a very awkward and heavy lift and carry.

Automated rail system. Pieces not delivered to the workstation at an ideal height require the operator to reach, bend and/or twist to reach the garment. Sewing tables larger than necessary do not allow the operator to get close to the hanger. A lot of force is required to hook and unhook the garments from the hangers. Hangers fall off the rail and the operators have to lift them back on. Buttons that control the movement of the hangers are often too far away from the operator or in awkward locations. This system creates specialties.

Sewing Table.
The dimensions of the sewing table that should be considered are the:
  • height
  • size
  • shape
  • tilt and
  • leg room.
Common problems
Height. Sewing tables are not easily adjustable. Tables that are too high create elevated shoulder postures and non-neutral elbow and wrist postures. Tables that are too low cause the operator to lean forward and flex his or her neck.

Size and shape. Some tables are not large enough to support the weight of the garment.

Other tables are too large and get in the way of easy pickup and deposit, particularly when using automated transport systems. Many tables are not the appropriate shape for the job.  
Table angle. Almost all sewing tables are flat. Flat sewing tables do not maximize visibility and compromise the posture of the upper extremity and neck.

Leg room. Sewing machine operators have limited legroom because of drawers and/or trash chutes attached to the underside of the table.
Chairs
The chair is a critical piece of equipment for sewing machine operators who work in a seated position. It can have a very large impact on the comfort of the worker and can affect the risk of muscle pain and injury. 
Common problems
Operators are provided with very poor chairs such as stacking chairs. These chairs are not adjustable. They provide no cushioning or back support and the edge of the seat constricts blood flow at the back of the legs because of a large rounded hump or square edge.

Some plants provide slightly better chairs that have some height or back adjustment capabilities but they cannot be adjusted quickly and easily and do not provide sufficient back support. Some plants purchase chairs that they believe are ergonomically correct, but they do not meet the needs of the operators. Common problems that occur when buying ergonomic chairs are that one individual selects the chair and it does not fit all or even most operators, and it is not right for all tasks. For example, the chair may have castors or may swivel when this is not right for the job. Often the seat pan is too large, resulting in the backrest not touching the back of the operator. The seat pan may have an uncomfortable hump at the front, causing the operator to sit on the front edge of the seat and not use the backrest. Individuals are not instructed in how to use the chairs properly. Without proper training the many benefits of ergonomic chairs are lost.

Foot Pedals
Most sewing machine operators use one treadle, which controls the direction and speed of the sewing machine. Some operators use additional smaller pedals that lift the presser foot or cut the thread.

Common problems
Treadles are very rarely in a proper position for the operators. They are either too far forward or too close to the operator. Both problems are bad for the posture of the operator. Treadles are usually too small to be comfortably operated by both feet, and some are at a very steep angle. The pedal is usually not in a comfortable position. When only one foot is used the operators rarely have a footrest to support the non-working foot. For standing operations the pedals are too high, requiring the operator to balance on one leg, and they cannot be moved to rotate the effort between both legs.

Floor surface
Some assembly tasks are performed from a standing position. When working in a standing position the floor surface is very important to the comfort of the worker and may influence the risk of injury.

Common problems
Operators stand for extended periods of time on hard surfaces.

Hand tools
Sewing machine operators frequently use several tools such as scissors or knives and occasionally hammers.

Common problems
Scissors. Large, heavy scissors are used for trimming threads and are held by the blade to provide accuracy. Operators cut through several layers of fabric with scissors that are too small and do not provide enough leverage. Scissor handles are narrow and create contact stresses. Scissors are dull and require excessive force to operate.

Knives. Knives without handles are used to remove stitching.

Hammers. Inappropriate items are used for hammering seams on garments such as ball peen hammers and wrenches.

Work Organization
Common problems
Assembly tasks are very repetitive and provide the opera- tors with little opportunity for rest. Many operators perform only one operation with no job rotation. The repetitive nature of the job is made worse by automated delivery systems or by other workers deliver- ing unfinished garments to the operators. “Team work” systems do not always provide task diversity for all operators. Workstation adjustment policies are not very effective because of lack of training of both the operators and the individuals responsible for the adjustments. Workplaces have no limit to bundle sizes and they sometimes are much too large.

2.4.1.1 Loading the automated rail system
Common problems
Parts being loaded are poorly organized. The working height of the table is almost always too low and the height of the hangers is always too high. Operators are not able to adjust the height of any workstation components.


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