Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-7)

Ergonomic Workplace Evaluation in Ugandan Apparel Plants (Part-7)
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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METHODOLOGY

3.0 Introduction
This chapter will entail the actual procedure used in the answering of the hypothesis and meeting the set objectives.

3.1 Research design
The investigation was done using a questionnaire survey, observations and relevant anthropometric and workplace layout measurements.

Workers’ perceptions of their physical work conditions were solicited via a questionnaire, prepared by me. The subjects were volunteers and were not promised or given any rewards for their effort. Questionnaire information was gathered depending on personal characteristics, subjective opinions about work conditions, and cumulative trauma problems associated with work in the plant.

The personal and job related characteristics of the subjects (age, years at work, gender, education level and work experience) were recorded.

Walk through survey of the factory shop floor was carried out to observe the activities undertaken in the production of garments. Record review of health records and accident records maintained in the factory was done to identify the causes of accidents and the type of injury and use of protective equipment, training of workers and other related factors.

The investigation lasted for two months. The agreement with management to perform a follow-up study was not guaranteed and was not done.

3.2 Sample/ participants
With questionnaires, I used five representatives in each workplace, four workers and one manager; who helped me to complete my survey in their organization. Then I conducted an ergonomic assessment of five jobs in each workplace, which included; Drafting, Cutting, Assembly, Pressing, and Finishing department

3.3 Data analysis
Quantitative data was analyzed using statistical analysis system. This included the following.
  1. Frequency distribution tables.
  2. Graphic presentation, mainly bar charts and pie charts(for qualitative data) and mean and median (for quantitative data)
  3. Measures of central tendency- mode(for qualitative data) and mean and median (for quantitative data)

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Questionnaire information was gathered on personal characteristics, subjective opinions about work conditions, and cumulative trauma problems associated with work in the plant. The personal and job related characteristics of the subjects (age, years at work, gender, education level and work experience).

Table 4.01 Age of the workers.

Age
Number
Percentage of age group(%)
<20
6
5.83
20-29
57
55.34
30-39
21
20.39
40-49
8
7.76
50-59
5
4.85
>60
6
5.83

The workers were relatively young, with the mean age of 27 years (n = 103). About two thirds of them were below 30 years of age, with 5.83% of the workers below 20.

Table 4.02 Age (years) years at work and working hours
Variable
mean
standard deviation
age(years)
27
4.1
years at work
3
2.6
working hours per week
61.1
1.1

The workers were relatively inexperienced, with an average duration of 3 years on the job. In addition, working hours in the different plants were lengthy. On average the worker’s hours per week were 61.1 hours.

The data signifies that most of the workers were young and inexperienced. On addition to that they worked long hours, more than that required in the industrial countries.

Table 4.03 Education of workers

education
number
Percentage
primary
60
58.25
secondary
38
36.9
university
5
4.85

58.25% of the workers attained only primary education and 36.9% attained secondary education whereas only five workers out of 103 went for university education.

This means that about 81.56% of the workers are below 40 years, yet 58.25% of the total workers in the Ugandan apparel industry attained only primary education and 95.15% has education below university 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.

Table 4.04 Work schedules of the workers

Work schedule
Number
Percentage (%)
Day
89
86.41
Afternoon
14
13.59
Evening
0
0
 
Table 4.05 Number of workers who work in shifts
Rotating shifts
Number
percentage
Yes
14
13.59
No
89
86.41

Most workers worked during day and no worker worked in the evening, whereas 13.59% of the workers worked afternoon.

The results signify that in most of the Uganda’s apparel plants, the work is not divided into schedules/shifts, and therefore the worker is meant to work all day and ensure that a specific task is accomplished. This therefore requires the worker to work even beyond his or her capacity, resulting into fatigue and thus serious accidents.

Table 4.06 Marital status of the workers

marital status
number
percentage
married
47
45.63
not married
56
54.37

45.63% of the workers are married and 54.37% of them are unmarried. But from table 4.01, two thirds of the workers were below 30years of age.

This means that most of them work because of the responsibilities they have, yet very young. They do not have any solution to their responsibilities except them working in these garment manufacturing plants, whatever the condition it might be.

This is also torched in interview and observation table, that there was a general fear of the workers being dismissed for reporting stressful or unsafe working conditions in almost all the firms except only in two firms.

Table 4.07 Workers with work related discomforts

Work related discomforts
Number
Percentage
back pain
41
39.8
neck pain
21
20.4
Shoulder pain
21
20.4
Wrist pains
9
8.7
Other discomforts
11
10.7

As can be seen from the table 4.07, most of the reported incidences in the back, neck and shoulders are relatively high and are most likely the result of working with constrained postures, poorly designed workstations and non-ergonomic tools.

The occurrence of wrist pains (8.7 % of the subject sample) is an indication of excessive hand work involving gripping and pinching with the arm in constrained postures

It is important to note that some of these reported incidences were lower than those reported by Chan et al. (2002) in California and Herbert et al. (2001) in New York but may not necessarily have been due to better work conditions.

The results may have been due to
  1. A greater degree of tolerance and acceptance of pain and suffering at work in the Ugandan workplace compared to the American workplace and
  2. Differences in reporting by subjects.( interview and observation table 4.14)
Table 4.08 nature of the workstation posture of the workers
Work station posture
yes
No
Horizontal thighs
80
23
Verticle lower legs
103
0
footrest
100
3
Neutral wrists
94
9
percentage
91.5
8.5

The workstation posture was 91.5% ergonomically engineered and only 8.5% unsafe. This signifies that among all the ergonomics laws and principles, the Ugandan apparel plants has addressed the workstation principle very well as compared to that in Californian(Chan et al. (2002) and Herbert et al. (2001) and Bangladesh apparel plants(Sarder et al, 1996)

Table 4.09 Working postures of the workers

Working posture
Number
percentage
seated
61
59.22
walking
0
0
Standing
42
40.7
other
0
0

The workers in the apparel plants either worked seated or worked standing. It was found that those who worked seated were those in the garment assembly and stitching, some in pressing and tose who worked standing were those worked as pattern drafters, garment finishers and some in pressing department .

Table 4.10 Nature of the seats

 
Nature of the seats
Yes
No
Adjust easily
15
88
Have padded seat
23
80
Have adjustable backrest
12
91
Provide lumbar support
51
52
Have casters
16
87
percentage
22.72
77.28
 
Table 4.11 Nature of the workstation  

The seats that were used in the apparel plants were poorly designed ergonomically 85.43% of the seats used by the workers did not adjust easily, only 22.3% had padded seat, 11.65% had adjustable backrest, whereas 50.49% did not provide lumbar support to the workers, and 84.50% of the seats lacked casters.

The results also show that the seats in general were 77.28% ergonomically unsuitable and only 22.72% of the seats were ergonomically engineered.

The results show that the workstations were 61.8% poorly ergonomically engineered and the remaining 38.2% ergonomically engineered.

Therefore , most of the reported incidences in the back, neck and shoulders( Table 4.07) are relatively high and are most likely the result of working with constrained postures, poorly designed workstations and non-ergonomic tools.

Table 4.12 environmental conditions at the workplace.

Environmental conditions
Appropriate
Uncomfortable
poor
Lighting conditions
78
20
5
Noise levels
13
69
21
Vibration levels
22
66
12
percentage
36.6
50.2
13.2

The lighting conditions, noise levels and vibration levels in the firms were uncomfortable to 50.2% of the workers; appropriate to 36.6% and poor to 13.2% 0f the workers. These data suggest rapid turnover of the workforce, which are typical of most of the Ugandan apparel manufacturing industries, and imply that a severe human cost was embedded in the work. In addition, working hours in the plants were lengthy by the standards of the industrialized countries.

Table 4.13 Workers’ training


Worker’s training
Yes
No
Proper posture
5
98
Proper work methods
0
103
When and how to adjust workstations
20
83

The workers’ training was generally poor. Among the workers interviewed only 17.9% had the training, whereas the remaining 82.1 % lacked training.these results are supported also by Table 4.03, where 58.25% of the workers attained only primary education and 36.9% attained secondary education whereas only five workers out of 103 went for university education.

Therefore if at all a worker was not trained in proper working posture, proper work methods, how to adjust workstation, and the safety measures and first aid in school, then the chances of him or her getting training at work are 17.9% in Ugandan apparel plants.

Table 4.14 interview and Observation results in the apparel plants
Firms/ plants observed (names not disclosed)

OBSERVATION
FIRMS/PLANTS WHERE THE ACTIVITY WAS OBSERVED
Jobs are varied with respect to products, processes, and were performed both individually and in groups
All except B and F
Jobs were not organized well
All
Tasks were repitive and tended to be burdensome to workers
All
Workplace congested and sitting postures were typically uncomfortable. Leaning forward was common
All
Time schedules were tight and often required hurrying in performing task
All except A
Rest pauses were few and short when taken
All except A
Seats lacked back rest, which would have allowed breaks for resting the upper body after stressful sessions of bending the trunk and neck
All
Many seats were hard and wooden
All
Sharp bending of the neck was common, combined with sharp bending of the trunk among taller workers or moderate bending among short workers
All
Equipment, including sewing machines, was generally old
All
There was a general fear of being dismissed for reporting stressful or unsafe working conditions
All except A and B
Temperatures were 3-4 degrees Celsius higher than the outside temperature due to lack of air conditioning in the plant
All

Therefore;
  • Most Jobs were varied with respect to products, processes, and operations, and were performed both individually and in groups.
  • All the jobs in the firms were not organised.
  • Jobs were neither well-structured nor routinely organized.
  • All tasks were generally repetitive and burdensome to workers.
  • All workspace was congested and sitting postures were typically constrained and uncomfortable. Leaning forward was common.
  • In most firms, time schedules were tight and often required hurrying in performing tasks.
  • In all firms except one firm only, rest pauses were few and short when taken.
  • All seats lacked of a backrest
  • In all firms many seats were hard and wooden
  • In all firms sharp bending of the neck was common, combined with sharp bending of the trunk among taller workers or moderate bending among short workers
  • Equipment, including sewing machines, was generally old in all firms
  • There was a general fear of being dismissed for reporting stressful or unsafe working conditions in almost all firms except only in two firms
  • In all firms,temperatures were 3-4 degrees Celsius higher than the outside temperature due to lack of air conditioning in the plant 
 
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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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