Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-6)

Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-6)
Tebyetekerwa Mike
Dept. of Textile & Clothing Technology
Kyambogo University
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256(0)773770312 // +256(0)701181383

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2.5 Apparel plants ergonomics studies
Research on working conditions and associated problems in the garment industry have been conducted by a number of investigators (Keyserling et al., 1982; Punnett, et al., 1985; Blader, et al., 1991; Nag et al., 1992; Anderson et al., 1993; Serratos-Perez and Mendiola-Anda, 1993; and Chan et al., 2002), and their findings have supported the outcomes expected from work environments with poor ergonomic features, including constrained postures, repetitive motions and strong visual demands. Keyserling, et al. (1982) and Serratos-Perez and Mendiola-Anda (1993), for example, found cumulative trauma disorder prevalence rates among sewing machine operators to be 25 % and 47.5 %, respectively. High prevalence rates of problems in the upper body (the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and back) have also been observed by others (Balder et al., 1991; Punnett et al., 1985; Nag et al, 1985; Anderson and Gaardboe, 1993; and Chan et al., 2002) It is suggested that one of the worst aspects of sewing machine operations in the garment manufacturing industry is the body posture operators are forced to assume throughout the workday. Operators typically sit with a sharp forward flexed torso (Halpern and Dawson, 1996) which places them at risk to musculo-skeletal disorders (Vihma et al., 1982). Such a posture has been found to be mainly the result of the geometry of the workstation, and suggested and tested solutions have included work surface modification (Haslegrave and Corlett, 1993), the adoption of adjustable chairs (Keyserling and Chaffin, 1988; Yu et al., 1988) and various low cost workplace modifications (Chan et al., 2002). Li et al. (1995), in a review of the literature, noted that sewing machine operators’ posture improved from changes in machine and work surface inclination, and Yu et al. (1988) also observed significant posture improvements from improved seat design (Yu et al., 1988)
Ergonomics in apparel industry
Ergonomics in apparel industry
2.5 Conclusion
Currently the Uganda’s labour force is estimated at 9.8 million of which 53% are females (UBOS, 2006). About 75% of the labour force is below 40 years and yet 30% of the total labour force is illiterate and close to 77% has education below secondary school level. This means that the majority of the individuals who enter the market do not have required skills or even awareness of market requirements and labour laws which include safety and healthy

In Uganda, Up to now there is little data and information available in the literature that involve ergonomics principles, that have been implemented in the garment manufacturing industries, even though the ministry of labour clearly advocates for safety and health of workers at workplace. To date, reported evidence indicates that this situation has not improved. While the political and economic conditions of the country may be major factors in this lack of improvement, the awareness of the importance of ergonomic interventions can transcend some of these obstacles. (Konrad et al., 2011)

In addition to the poor physical workplace and equipment design, there is laxity of labor law enforcement which seems to have produced a lack of taking responsibility by management and owners toward working conditions. Studies have shown that most of the garment factories have not followed the country’s labor laws and the International Labor Organization’s conventions. Management and owners seldom take responsibility for any workplace injuries or accidents, and evade responsibilities, even for accidental deaths. For example, there is no national minimum wage. Violation of working hours is at its maximum. According to the employment policy the maximum number of working hours per day should be 10, including 2 overtime hours but, in most cases, workers are forced to work longer extending to 12 to 16 hours per day. Inadequate or absence of transportation, housing, insurance, social security or children day care facilities exacerbates already difficult working conditions.

The present study is an assessment of the work conditions in a garment manufacturing plants in Uganda. This particular topic was selected mainly because of the interest creating the database of the working conditions in the garment manufacturing industry in Uganda through an ergonomic evaluation of the working conditions of the workers and to suggest possible solutions to deal with observed problems.

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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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