|Low-Cost Ways of Improving Working Conditions: 100 Examples from Asia (ILO, 1989, 190 p.)|
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE
by Kazutaka Kogi Wai-on Phoon and Joseph E. Thurman
The International Programme for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (PIACT) was launched by the International Labour Organisation in 1976 at the request of the International Labour Conference and after extensive consultations with member States. PIACT is designed to promote or support action by member States to set and attain definite objectives aiming at making work more human. The Programme is thus concerned with improving the quality of working life in all its aspects: for example, the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases, a wider application of the principles of ergonomics, the arrangement of working time, the improvement of the content and organisation of work and of conditions of work in general, a greater concern for the human element in the transfer of technology. To achieve these aims, PIACT makes use of and co-ordinates the traditional means of ILO action including:
- the preparation and revision of international labour standards;
- operational activities, including the dispatch of multidisciplinary teams to assist member States on request;
- tripartite meetings between representatives of governments, employers and workers, including industrial committees to study the problems facing major industries, regional meetings and meetings of experts;
- action-oriented studies and research; and
- clearing-house activities, especially through the International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) and the Clearing-house for the Dissemination of Information on Conditions of Work.
This publication is the outcome of a PIACT project.
Copyright © International Labour Organisation 1989
Publications of the International Labour Office enjoy copyright under Protocol 2 of the Universal Copyright Convention. Nevertheless, short excerpts from them may be reproduced without authorisation, on condition that the source is indicated. For rights of reproduction or translation, application should be made to the Publications Branch (Rights and Permissions), International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. The International Labour Office welcomes such applications.
Preliminary edition published in 1988 (ISBN 92-2-106830-7)
This edition 1989
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It is sometimes argued that improvements in conditions of work and occupational safety and health are too costly for developing countries. Expenditures for social purposes are said to threaten the competitiveness, profitability and even the survival of enterprises which are depended upon to contribute to economic growth and create new jobs. It is contended that developing countries can only meet working conditions standards in special cases, and that general measures which require improvements are unwelcome and counterproductive interference with more important economic matters.
In response, it may be pointed out that the economic costs of occupational accidents and diseases are very high and moreover that sacrificing the worker in order to reduce the cost of production is an unacceptable principle in even the poorest societies. These arguments are quite valid, but unfortunately there are many circumstances in which they have not been sufficiently convincing. There is a tendency to see the costs of improvements as certain and substantial and the benefits as potential and peripheral.
The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that significant improvements can be made in conditions of work and occupational safety and health at very low cost. Many of the ideas which are described are appropriate for widespread application. It is hoped that these ideas will encourage a change in attitudes about the cost of improvements and that they will stimulate inventiveness in the search for better conditions.
Low cost does not mean technically unsound. The improvements which have been selected for this book are not proposed as alternatives to established standards, but as ways of meeting and going beyond those standards. This is especially important with regard to occupational safety and health hazards. It should be kept in mind that this book is a collection of examples, not an attempt to deal with occupational safety and health in a systematic way. Many very important subjects are not covered at all. Because these examples have been gathered from several countries with differing regulations, some of them may not be sufficient to meet the standards of every country. In such cases, it should be clear that the local requirements must be met.
There are several reasons for emphasising low-cost improvements. The low cost encourages employers to consider improvements favourably. Low-cost improvements tend to be simple and this simplicity provides opportunities for immediate action. In addition, the possibility of undertaking a series of simple actions, each of which has immediate and visible effects, encourages learning by doing and the development of a process of change rather than ad hoc responses to specific problems.
The meaning of low cost varies according to the circumstances of the country and of the enterprise concerned. What may seem a very minor expenditure in one case may represent a difficult financial decision in another situation. Moreover, the actual cost depends on local wage and materials costs, whether or not an outside supplier must be used and other factors. It was therefore necessary to adopt a pragmatic definition of low cost rather than a specific amount of money. The following cost criteria were used to select examples:
- the actual financial outlay should be within the day-to-day possibilities of most enterprises, including smaller enterprises;
- the materials and labour required should be easily available, wherever possible within the enterprise itself;
- examples which increased productivity or work quality at the same time they improved working conditions are emphasised, especially if the gains are clearly identifiable.
A straightforward procedure was followed Fifteen institutions from ten countries participated: Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Of these institutions, five were university departments, two were independent research institutes, five were labour inspectorates and three were governmental research and training institutes. They are listed at the end of this Introduction. The collaborating institutions were asked to report examples of low-cost improvements for each of several aspects of conditions of work and occupational safety and health. Case reports were made using a standardised form which emphasised cost measurement. Photographs or drawings of the improvements were also provided wherever possible. In all, 236 cases were reported. One hundred selected cases are compiled in this book. In addition, brief information is provided on additional similar cases at the end of some of the case descriptions.
Three main areas of potential improvement in working conditions are covered; work organisation and workstation design; the working environment; and welfare facilities. In each of these areas, a great variety of measures were found in all the countries which participated. Very often, these improvements are outside the scope of national regulations or go beyond legal requirements. They have frequently been adopted as means of increasing productivity. The main types of improvements under each of these three headings are summarized below.
Work organisation and workstation design:
- simple changes in workstations, such as machine-feeding devices, jigs and fixtures, better placement of components and tools, improved layout of controls and displays, use of pneumatic devices, introduction of less strenuous work methods and provision of platforms or adjustable chairs;
- better materials handling, including the provision of push-carts, use of leverage in tools and materials handling, improved methods of lifting, use of mechanical aids and improved transportation routes;
- arrangements for good housekeeping, storage and access to work locations, for example by clearing passageways, use of handrails, installing storage shelves and racks, providing waste boxes or trays, improving drainage and arranging easier and safer access to work areas;
- better job content and work schedules, including re-design of tools and machines for less stressful operation, avoidance of continuous standing, introduction of job rotation and insertion of frequent short breaks.
The physical work environment:
- better lighting through installation of skylights, painting walls in light colours, lowering or re-positioning lights, improving lighting fixtures and arrangements to reduce glare and increase contrast;
- reduction of heat and noise by isolation or screening of sources, use of thermal barriers or noise dampeners, longer tools to enable work further from heat sources, insulation of machines or parts producing heat or noise and use of protective equipment;
- better handling, use and storage of hazardous substances including prevention of spillage, dust control and enclosure of hazardous processes;
- effective guards and other safety devices, including locally-made guards, foot guards, face shields, metal sheet or mesh guards, welding partitions, two-hand operating devices and handrails near dangerous places;
- safe working procedures, including mechanical aids, mechanical inter-locks, special warnings and instructions, improved work stands allowing safe work motions, improved electrical wiring, ready access to fire extinguishers and work methods which make injuries less likely.
- improved sanitary facilities including repair and cleaning of toilets and provision of waste bins, washing facilities and changing rooms;
- provision of drinking water or other beverages and arrangements for meals, such as safe water sources or filtering devices, a tea break corner, a small canteen or eating place, arrangements for subsidised meals and delivery of packed lunches;
- provision of recreation, child care and transport facilities, such as sports facilities using available space, a reading corner, creches or various arrangements for daily transportation of workers.
The many different problems of working conditions and environment in developing countries cannot be solved all at once: progressive improvement is necessary. Here, however, problems arise. It is often difficult for enterprises to identify and apply feasible, appropriate measures. In addition to economic difficulties, most enterprises lack access to technical knowledge and specialised personnel.
One immediate possibility for the use of this book is therefore to encourage action by employers and workers at enterprise level. It makes clear that there are many simple, inexpensive solutions to nearly all types of working conditions problems. This shows that a fresh look at existing problems can lead to ideas and action which are practical and effective. Many of the examples in this book can be directly applied. In other cases, modifications will be necessary but the ideas can be used as a point of departure. In still other cases, an entirely original solution will be found.
This book may also be used to support training at various levels. It can be added to the training materials for inspectors, safety and health personnel and welfare officers in addition to managers, supervisors and workers. Local examples are of great value in such training. These may be collected using this book as a guide.
In applications at enterprise level and in the training of various groups, the following points should be discussed:
- the existence of a wide variety of solutions to problems, many of which are low in cost;
- the value of a fresh, unbiased look at conditions which have become accepted because they have always existed, not because they are inevitable or efficient;
- the need for persons suggesting improvements to consider cost and practicality. This can be especially important for inspectors and other technical specialists;
- the direct and indirect benefits of many of these improvements. The cases report a number of measurable productivity benefits, as well as savings in time, higher product quality and less waste. Reductions in accidents, disease and fatigue are important to worker morale and motivation in addition to avoiding costs to the enterprise.
These points suggest a common interest on the part of government agencies, employers' organisations and trade unions in promoting improvements in working conditions. The identification of low cost improvements is a valuable first step in the action required towards a safer, heathier and more productive working environment.
Dr. M.A. Khan, Bangladesh Project Management Institute, Dhaka
Mr. Saw Lin, Director General, Factories and General Labour Laws Inspection Department, Ministry of Labour, Rangoon
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Mr. T.B.R. Mani, Chief Inspector of Factories (Health and Safety), Tamil Nadu, Madras
Mr. S.B. Hegde Patil, Director General, Central Labour Institute, Bombay
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Dr. R.N. Sen, Ergonomics Laboratory, Department of Physiology, Calcutta University Calcutta
Dr. A. Manuaba, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Udayana, Denpasar
Mr. E.J. Sawong, Head, Research and Documentation Centre for Manpower and Development, Yayasan Tenaga Kerja Indonesia, Jakarta
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Mr. Abdul Jalil Mahmud, Director General, Factories and Machinery Department, Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Kuala Lumpur
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Mr. Abid Ali Khan, Industrial Hygienist, Medical Inspectorate of Factories, Punjab, Lahore
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Miss L.S. Lazo, Deputy Director, Institute of Labor and Manpower Studies, Ministry of Labor and Employment, Manila
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Mrs. S. Tiong-Aquino, Assistant Director, Institute for Small-scale Industries, University of the Philippines, Quezon City
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Dr. Foo Swee Cheng, Department of Social Medicine and Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore
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Dr. M. Rajendra, Senior Inspecting Medical Officer, Factories Division, Department of Labour, Colombo
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Dr. Chaiyuth Chavalitnitikul, Director, National Institute for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment, Department of Labour, Bangkok
Dr. Malinee Wongphanich, Occupational Health Department, Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Bangkok.
It seems obvious that work should be organised in ways which make the best use of workers skills and abilities, and that unnecessary difficulties should be avoided. In practice, however, many jobs are much more difficult than they need to be.
Improvements in work organisation and workstation design are particularly closely related to productivity. Thus the improvements in this chapter are not only low in cost, they may actually pay for themselves very quickly in terms of increased production and better quality. There are three reasons for this connection with productivity:
- improvements in work organisation and workstation design can directly improve productivity, for example by eliminating or combining tasks, by permitting more rapid task execution, by shortening handling distances and by reducing the likelihood of errors;
- such improvements also reduce the fatigue of the workers and permit more rapid recovery, which indirectly contributes to productivity;
- many of these improvements also affect the motivation of workers and thereby the likelihood of production increases and higher quality.
In addition, it should be kept in mind that these improvements reduce the likelihood of accidents and of the costs and damage associated with them.
This chapter gives examples of improvements in workstation design, materials handling, housekeeping and storage, job content and work schedules. They show that it is often easy and inexpensive to make jobs easier, less stressful, more motivating and more efficient.
The first group of examples deals with arrangements at individual workstations. These arrangements are important as efficiency at work is greatly affected by how a workplace is designed. This is particularly true when similar operations are repeated at a workstation. If work can be done effectively and easily, productivity will be higher and quality will be better.
A workstation is a place which a worker occupies when performing a job. It may be occupied all the time or only occasionally. A workstation often contains a work stand or work table for machine operation, assembly or inspection.
At workstations, people repeat similar operations many times. It is therefore important to keep good people-work relationships so that Work is done smoothly and without unnecessary disruptions. It often happens, however, that materials and controls are placed inconveniently far away, that the work table wobbles, that the worker's body is twisted each time an operation is done, or that the worker is easily confused when reading a meter or moving a control. Each of these inappropriate situations can easily lead to wasted production time, increased fatigue and a fall in product quality. The worker may suffer from troubles due to work, such as low back pain. Even an accident may result.
Workstations should be adjusted to the capacity and needs of individual workers. For example, the work table height should correspond to body height. If the top of a table is too high and cannot be lowered, a foot platform should be provided. It is also important to make sure that the strength and skills required by the job are appropriate to individual workers who do the work. This is the reason why modifications are often needed when machines are imported or workstations designed without much attention to the special abilities and needs of local people.
Improvements in workstation design can be discovered by examining the worker's motions and the layout of visual information. Many of these improvements are applicable at low cost. For example, the worker's time can be saved by putting materials, tools and controls within easy reach. The worker's hands can be used more effectively by using jigs or other fixtures. Likewise, work motions can be made easier and postures less tiring by changing the height of work tables or by using foot platforms. Mistakes will be less frequent if different shapes or colours are allocated to different categories of switches or signals. All these measures can contribute to improving productivity and reducing strain and accidents.
Case 1: A work stand for easier handling of a heavy product
In a workshop of a transport agency in India where there were about 300 workers, four were engaged in the cleaning, rasping and trimming of tyres. Each tyre, placed on a work stand made of wood, had to be lifted and turned so that cleaning and other operations could be made on its different parts. It had to be supported on the knees while being turned. This meant awkward posture, bending of the upper body to pick up tools, and strain on the back.
To make turning the tyre easier, two round pipes were fixed at the appropriate height replacing the old square-shaped wooden tyre-holder. The original and new work stands are shown in Figure 1. Because of the round structure of the new tyre-holder, turning the tyre became easy. The two pipes held up the tyre, eliminating the need for knee support. Since the Cools were kept at working height, there was no need to bend for them.
Figure 1: Original (left) and new (right) work stands for cleaning, rasping and trimming of tyres.
This new stand was fabricated from scrap materials. Welding was done in the workshop. Hence, costs incurred were marginal except for work hours for fabricating, which cost less than US$ 10. The manager of the workshop noted not only a reduction in the workers' fatigue but also a considerable increase in productivity. The output per work stand almost doubled. This was apparently due to the easiness of tyre turning that could be done at the new stand with only one hand and without requiring knee support.
In this example, the advantage of the improvement was clear and remarkable. The cost was minimal. A careful look at the way work was done showed how to raise productivity and reduce strain and fatigue.
Case 2: Work stand for garment work
Many manufacturing processes require manual operations. Though such operations are quite simple, it is often difficult or costly to mechanise them. As they consist of brief operations repeated many times, they easily result in boredom and discomfort. In a trouser production unit of a garment manufacturing factory in Thailand, a few jobs consisted of turning the trousers produced inside out. The workers complained of skin irritation and discomfort from inserting their hands into the trousers and pulling them inside out (Figure 2).
The production manager consulted with others on ways to eliminate the skin irritation. They drew up a plan to construct an iron stand with two parallel pipe arms. Two standard water pipes were welded on the top of the stand. The stand height was 120 cm. A small wheel was placed at the tip of each arm. The wheel served as a turning point. A pair of trousers was placed on the two pipe arms, the bottom ends fixed at the wheels, and was easily turned inside out (Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 2: The original method of turning the trousers inside out.
Figure 3: Two pipe-arms with wheels at the end for inserting and fixing a pair of trousers.
Figure 4: Placing a pair of trousers on proper arms. They will be turned inside out when taken off.
The approximate cost of making the stand, including materials and labour costs, was US$ 20. The problem of skin irritation disappeared, with a reduction in medical expenses for its treatment. A slight increase was seen in production.
The wheels on the tips of this iron stand serve as fixtures for holding the trousers while they are turned inside out. This is a good example of how small mechanical aids can help eliminate unnecessary human arm motions. These aids can enhance productivity, thereby reducing strain and discomfort.
Case 3: A core-making workstation in a foundry
In a steel foundry in India which employed 60 workers, about 20 were engaged in making a variety of cores. These core makers, squatting on the floor, took core sand from a heap over one metre away. Then they made each core on a plate with the aid of a trowel, a venting rod and a rammer. Split-type wooden core boxes were used to form the cores. The work arrangement is shown in Figure 5. All the operations were performed on the floor, the squatting worker reaching for sand, searching for tools and scattering sand and cores around. The workplace was over-crowded and untidy, necessitating frequent rearranging and cleaning.
Figure 5: Original work arrangement for core making with the worker in a squatting position.
Seated workstations were introduced for better housekeeping and efficiency. For each worker, a bin made of metal and wood was made and placed on a workbench. The bin had an opening for scooping out the sand, with the bin bottom sloping towards the worker. A number of clips and brackets were added on the outer side of the bin for positioning the tools required for core making. The worker could sit on a stool. Additional, special places were provided for keeping water, nails and other materials and for empty boxes and finished cores. The new arrangement is shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: A new workstation for core making. The worker is now seated.
The bins were made out of available drums. Cutting the drums and welding was done in the workshop. Each bin with a table and a stool cost about US$ 40. The number of cores made during a shift increased by nearly 30 per cent. The workers welcomed the new work arrangements which helped to reduce fatigue and keep the workshop clean.
This example illustrates appropriate work height, use of bins for easy reach, designation of places for tools and materials, and the use of gravity for making materials readily available. Accompanying benefits were the saving of space and improved housekeeping.
Case 4: Simplifying lathe operations
In the machine shop of an engineering factory in Burma, lathe operators who tapered the ends of square rods complained of injury risks and physical strain. The management was also dissatisfied with the low output from the lathes. A survey made by the production management staff and safety committee members established that clamping and releasing a square rod on a four-jaw independent chuck was complicated and strenuous. A few accidental injuries had occurred when the operators failed to take the chuck key off before switching on the machine.
The lathe design was modified so as to eliminate the work of clamping and detaching the workpiece in the chuck and to reduce the required work steps. A tool head with six radially-mounted single-point cutting tools was fixed to the lathe head stock spindle. A quick-release workpiece holding a feeding device was then mounted on the saddle. The device had a base frame with a square hole guide, a swivelling nut which fitted to the centre hole on the top surface of the base frame, and a feed screw with a handle at one end. The feed screw was used for feeding the workpiece into the revolving cutting tool head and releasing it. As the feed screw advanced, the taper was cut and stopped by a pre-set travel limit. Then the feed screw was unscrewed and again another cycle of operation ensued. To reduce the risk of accidental injury from the revolving tool holder, it was encased with a metal enclosure that had a square hole coinciding with the hole in the guide block.
Figure 7: Holding a workpiece on the chuck.
All these attachments were produced in the factory itself. The materials were from ready stock in the factory. A rough estimate of the cost by the engineers was US$ 400, including the cost of materials. The work process was simplified and far less effort was needed for machining. The rate of finished products increased from the previous level of 200 pieces per eight-hour shift to nearly 1,000 pieces. The accident risk was greatly reduced. Both the management and operators were satisfied with the new work method.
Figure 8: Tapering the rod on the machine.
Figure 9: A modified tool holder and new workpiece holding device with a square hole guide, a swivelling nut and a feed screw.
Figure 10: Modified tapering using the new method.
Figure 11: Metal enclosure for the revolving tool.
Case 5: Better placement of components and instruction sheets
In a factory producing radio sets in Indonesia, it was felt that the components to be installed on particle circuit boards and the instructions for the work were too far from the workers. Component boxes were placed on a table about 60-70 cm from each worker and the instruction sheets at a distance of 110 cm. The workers complained that often the instructions were not easy to read.
The placement of the components and instructions was improved and the environment of the workshop cleaned up. First, two-ties shelves were made from thick boards, which were readily available. These shelves were placed in front of each worker. Component containers were put on these shelves within easy reach of the worker. The distance the worker had to reach to the components was reduced to 40 cm. Second, new instruction boards were made. They were slightly smaller in size than the old ones. More space was made between the lines on the boards (0.75 cm instead of 0.5 cm). Each instruction board was placed much nearer to the worker, at a distance of 50 cm.
Figure 12: Original arrangements for instructions and circuit board components.
Figure 13: New placement of instructions and two-tier shelves for components.
As a result, the workers could reach components and read the instructions much more easily than before. Space occupied by the component boxes was reduced and inventory of components was made easier. Errors in the instalment on the circuit board were reduced. Cleanliness at the workshop also improved with the new arrangement.
The cost per worker was about US$ 2.50 for shelves and about US $0.50 for the new instruction boards (plastic, plywood and paper). The cost was small as all the necessary work was done by the workers themselves.
Case 6: Locking device for power loom levers
In a textile mill in Malaysia, a worker-management safety committee was formed to look into workers' safety, health and welfare. The committee found that many accidents occurred during cleaning or maintenance work when the power looms were started by other workers.
The maintenance crew fitted a hinged U-shaped safety catch to the starting lever of these power looms. Whenever a loom was repaired or cleaned, the lever was pushed towards the stop position and locked by the safety catch. This prevented anyone from pushing the lever and activating the loom inadvertently. This is shown in Figures 14 and 15.
Figure 14: U-shaped hinged safety catch locking the power lever of a power loom.
The committee then drew up a training programme for the workers. The programme included instruction on starting and stopping the power looms and related safety procedures. The committee also decided to organise safety seminars on a regular basis, i.e. every six months.
The fitting of safety catches to the starting levers of the power looms cost only US$ 5 per lever. The frequency rate of accidents was reduced by about 70 per cent. This level was maintained thereafter. In 1984, the factory achieved 255 accident-free days. This result was apparently due to the higher safety consciousness among workers. The provision of the locking device, which itself increased workplace safety, thus helped instil safety consciousness among the workers.
Figure 15: Diagram of the hinged safety catch.
Case 7: Fixtures for spindle moulding machine operators
In a spindle moulding section of a furniture factory in Burma, the moulding machine operation required particular concentration due to high injury risks. Various forms of spindle moulding were being done on short wood workpieces. The management, together with the safety committee, studied the operation and conventional safety measures. They found that a conventional guard was not suitable and sometimes caused injuries to fingers.
Figure 16: An operator holding the workpiece for moulding dangerously without any fixtures.
It was decided to design fixtures of different types so that an appropriate one could be selected for each different kind of form. The operators were then given some time for adaptation to these workpiece holding devices. It was then made compulsory for all workers to make appropriate use of the fixtures.
In addition, barriers were fixed to keep the point of operation as little exposed as the work would permit. The use of these barriers proved useful to further reduce exposure to risks of injury.
Figure 17: The operator using a fixture. The barrier is not shown for clarity.
Each fixture cost about US$ 20-30. These holding devices proved suitable for the type of work done on the spindle moulders. During a one-year period after the use of fixtures and barriers was started, no more accidents occurred in this section.
Figure 18: A vertical barrier which minimises the cutter exposure.
Case 8: Use of a pneumatic device
Workers in a shock absorber section of a car factory in Indonesia were complaining of muscular pains in the chest. This was due to the forceful efforts needed to pull shock absorbers to a standardised length before their installation. The required force was equal to around ten kilograms, lasting about 12 seconds. In addition, pulling the absorbers did not result in uniform length. Readjustment was usually necessary when the shock absorbers were installed.
The workers tried to find better ways of pulling out the shock absorbers. Of the three suggestions made, they selected the use of pneumatic pressure from an air cylinder. This seemed inexpensive as they could utilise an air cylinder and a solenoid valve available from broken spot welders. Using these and other materials, mostly scraps, a mechanical puller was made which could pull seven shock absorbers simultaneously.
Figure 19: Manually pulling out a shock absorber.
Figure 20: Seven shock absorbers being pulled to standard length by a piston air-cylinder.
There were several advantages of this new device. There were no more complaints about chest pains. The pulled length was uniform. It took 42 seconds for the device to pull seven units together, but this meant six seconds per unit, half the duration of that needed in the case of manual pulling. The cost incurred was practically nil except for the extra work by the workers themselves to construct the device.
Other inexpensive improvements using pneumatic systems were also reported. In the car plant in Indonesia, a pneumatic device was used to compress a glass plate to its holder. Before the device was designed, workers had been compressing the glass door manually with a wooden lever. The new device was made by utilising unused materials. In addition, shelves for the glass and other components were moved nearer to the worker. A place was made under the compression device for keeping rubber materials and glass holders. While the cost was also practically nil in this case, the benefits were multiple: the worker's movements were shorter, production time was reduced by about 25 per cent and the right shoulder stiffness of the workers disappeared.
Another example comes from a detergent factory in Thailand. In packaging detergent products manually, workers had to twist the upper part of the body and lift heavy boxes afterwards to place them on a conveyor line. The workers complained of low back pains. These pains seemed to affect work efficiency. A simple pneumatic device using an air cylinder was attached to lift each packed box up to the level of the conveyor line. The operations then could be carried out without strain.
The direct cost amounted to approximately US$ 400, including expenses for pneumatic cylinders, the conveyor belt and packaging platform. The labour cost was not included as the construction was done by the maintenance department during working hours. The investment was considered worthwhile as the packaging operations became much smoother.
Case 9: Multi-level chairs for furniture production
In the sanding section of a furniture manufacturing factory in the Philippines which employed 25 workers, the manager found that workers were complaining of back strain. It appeared that the complaints were related to various postures taken while sanding different parts of the furniture products. Rather bulky chairs were provided in this section, but the workers quite often did not use them. The chairs were too bulky to move around, and were not suitable to work at varying heights.
With the help of the workers, the manager was able to design a small multiple-level chair. The top and one side of the chair had a padded seat. The top was used as a seat when the level of the work was high and the side was used when it was low.
The chair was made of pine. It was light enough to be easily carried. It could be used flexibly depending on the height of the furniture parts being sanded. Five such chairs were made.
Figure 21: A worker sanding wood products using a multi-level seat.
The direct cost was minimal since the raw materials used were scrap pieces of wood and materials from the factory. With the workers' time in building the chairs taken into account, each chair cost approximately US$ 2. The total cost for making the five chairs was only US$ 10. Advantages from the use of these chairs included an increase in production and a reduction in complaints about backache.
The problem of providing suitable work chairs is often neglected, although chairs are used in many different kinds of work. Modern, comfortable office chairs are rarely used in workshops either because they do not meet the different needs of such workers or because they are too bulky. Appropriate chairs in workshops should allow flexible use, as illustrated by the present example.
Figure 22: The original chairs used in an electronics factory and a new adjustable chair.
An additional problem in improving chairs is the relatively high cost of good chairs available on the market. In the case of microscope work among female workers in an electronics factory in Pakistan, provision of better adjustable chairs required an outlay of about US$ 30 per chair. New chairs with adjustable backrests for 60 workers were purchased. In view of the resulting high quality of work, the management considered the cost a necessary and useful investment. Backache and elbow pains had been a common problem reported by the workers. An increase in work efficiency of over 10 per cent was seen after the purchase of the new chairs.
As this last example shows, good chairs are especially necessary in the case of work done in a constrained posture. Availability of good work chairs at reasonable prices seems necessary. It should be noted, however, that there are many ways to improve existing chairs using available materials.
Case 10: Cottage-industry workstations
In a village in Bali, Indonesia, there were about 70 households which were engaged in the production of household goods such as cutlery products which required blacksmith work. Previously, this work was done squatting or sitting on the floor (Figure 23). This was found to be inefficient and tiring. The villagers, in consultation with health experts, designed a new workstation for blacksmith work. Similar workstations were built in most households, mainly using concrete. Each workstation had in the middle a flat work surface about 80 cm high. A fireplace to heat iron was annexed to the work surface. The surface was broad enough for doing the main blacksmith work. Tools also could be placed on the surface. When necessary, work could be done together by a few people surrounding it. An example is shown in Figure 24.
Figure 23: Original methods for blacksmith work.
Figure 24: An improved blacksmith workstation with a broad work surface allowing work in standing positions.
The cost for constructing a new workstation ranged between US$ 40-100. The differences in the cost were due to the materials used. The re-construction plan was welcomed by these households. In almost all of them, all family members except children were doing blacksmith work. The workplaces were inside the house premises, but separated from the living quarters. This also made it easier to re-construct the workplaces. There were still some old-style workplaces left. But according to interview results, the villagers preferred to work at new workstations. The reasons given were increased efficiency, especially in the case of group work, and reduced fatigue.
Similar improvements were made in the ceramic cottage industry in a village in Bali. In this village, about 80 households were producing ceramic products. Potters were working at wheels sitting on a low makeshift seat. The wheel was rotated by using the feet to move a bamboo stick connected to the wheel shaft by a strap. A wooden worktable with a normal seat height was made using the same wheel rotation mechanism (Figure 26). The table surface was made low enough to allow the pot shaping work around elbow height. Space for the knees and feet was also considered. Each worktable cost about US$ 40. As the worktable could be easily carried, the villagers preferred to use it in some shady, open place.
Figure 25: Original workplace for a village potter.
Figure 26: A wooden worktable for a potter which keeps the traditional foot-operated wheel rotation mechanism.
Materials handling is performed by almost every worker in industry, either as a full-time job or as part of other work. It is often done by hand, though increasingly there is some mechanical help. As a rule, many tons of materials are moved for each ton of product produced.
In many industries, materials could not be processed at a reasonable cost if it were not for efficient handling and transportation of materials. Efficient materials handling is therefore an important element of productivity. There are, however, many possible sources of inefficiency, including strenuous or awkward ways of lifting, carrying or transporting materials; arrangements for feeding materials to machines which are inconvenient and time-consuming; unnecessarily long routes for moving materials; and lack of appropriate tools or handling aids.
Handling of materials accounts for a considerable proportion of occupational injuries. These injuries occur in almost every work area, not merely in stockrooms or warehouses. Common injuries include strains, sprains, bruises and fractures and the largest number of injuries occur to fingers, hands and feet. They are primarily caused by unsafe work practices, such as carrying too heavy a load, incorrect gripping, improper lifting or failure to observe proper hand or foot clearance. Lack of personal protective equipment, especially helmets, gloves and footwear, also accounts for many injuries.
In practice, easy, efficient and safe ways of handling and transporting materials go together. Many of the most effective improvements are simple and low in cost. For example, minor changes in layout or work methods can often reduce awkward or strenuous motions in moving materials or products. Special handling aids such as the correct size of boxes, adequate holding devices or jigs, hooks, hand trucks or carts can often sharply reduce time and effort. The layout of passageways and machines can be changed to improve work flow. Mechanical devices such as convey lines can be introduced. Machine feeding methods can be made more convenient, for example, by using magazines. Even with no new equipment at all, methods of lifting and carrying can be improved.
In the majority of the examples shown in this section, the cost incurred in carrying out the solutions is remarkably low. The cost in a few other cases depends on the types of mechanical aids introduced. The solutions are often easily apparent once there has been a careful examination of the ways materials are being moved.
Case 11: A simple wooden cart
In a furniture manufacturing enterprise in the Philippines which employed 35 workers, several workers had to interrupt their work every 15 minutes or so to get more materials. Because these materials were transported in bulk by hand, some materials were dropped on the floor. This affected the quality of the products. Though the supplies were located only about 15 metres from the workplace, the time spent going back and forth was surprisingly long if measured from the moment work stopped until it restarted, and multiplied by 30 or more times a day. Moreover, workers complained of fatigue in their arms.
The solution was to construct a simple wooden cart. No direct cost was incurred because surplus wood and other available materials were used. The estimated cost of the surplus wood was only about US$ 8. Indirect costs included the carpenters time, but this was also minimal. The cart could move enough materials to last each worker for an hour. One worker was assigned to supply materials as part of his general duties.
Figure 27: Use of home-made wooden carts which can be brought near each workstation.
The manager of the enterprise found that he had saved far more than the cost of the cart. The enterprise experienced a considerable increase in productivity. This, of course, was not entirely due to this one improvement in materials handling, but it made a contribution, not least because the workers stopped complaining of fatigue. Cracking and chipping of wood materials was reduced by about 90 per cent.
This example shows at least two important points. First, the improvement was neither costly nor difficult to design and construct. Second, the solution could have been easily ignored because, after all, the workers were not going very far for supplies. The observant manager noticed that more time was being lost than a casual look might suggest, and he listened to the complaints of his workers.
Case 12: A special cart for heavy loads
Moving heavy materials not only consumes a lot of effort, but often leads to accidents which damage material and may injure workers. In a company manufacturing bricks in India, this led to the design of a special cart for transporting the bricks on metal plates to the drying chambers. The factory, which employed 500 workers, was large enough to have a person who could design the cart after having consulted an ergonomist.
Figure 28: A cart with an iron plate for carrying bricks.
The cart was made from bicycle parts and iron angles from the factory workshop. The cost was bout US$ 100, including the time for design and construction. Maintenance costs were about US$ 10 a year.
By using the cart, workers were able to carry the bricks more quickly and with much less physical effort. Their productivity increased by about 15 per cent. In addition, damage to bricks during handling was reduced. Savings outweighed the cost of the cart. While the extent to which the physical effort of the workers was reduced could not be accurately assessed, they clearly benefitted appreciably.
A similar example was reported from Pakistan. In an engineering factory employing 100 workers, two push-carts were introduced for transporting finished products to the warehouse. Each cart cost US$ 100. The direct cost of US$ 200 seemed justifiable as absence due to injuries was much reduced among the transport workers.
Figure 29: Side view of the cart in use. Note the low position of the iron plate being carried.
Figure 30: A worker placing bricks on the iron plate.
In developing countries, there is often unnecessary physical exertion due to manual moving of heavy materials. Even when cost is an overriding consideration, carts and other mechanical aids constructed from local materials often pay for themselves by raising productivity and preventing damage to materials. The cost of potential injuries to workers should also be kept in mind.
Case 13: Improvements in carrying raw materials
In the raw materials unit of a household goods production complex in Thailand, there were complaints of back pains among those who were carrying and lifting 50 kilogram sacks of raw materials before dumping them into a hopper. To prevent back strain and reduce inefficiency, the safety officer and the plant manager discussed the problem and explored various possible solutions.
Together with some changes in work methods, a cart was designed and constructed and the slope of the floor improved. Small adjustments were necessary after a few trials. The cart was then used to carry the raw materials to the place where the sacks were dumped into the hopper. The direct cost was approximately US$ 740 for constructing the cart and improving the slope of the floor.
The workers welcomed the change, saying that the job became much easier. There were no more complaints of back pains after the improvement.
Figure 31: A new load carrying cart.
Case 14: Improving a shovel
The standard shovel requires continuous bending of the back to lift the materials handled. In a construction firm in Calcutta in India which employed about 25 workers as shovellers, there were complaints of backache and fatigue. By adding an additional handle near the base of the shovel, it was possible to significantly reduce the bending of workers' backs. Moreover, the distance the materials could be thrown increased by at least 25 per cent. Productivity also increased by 25 per cent. At the same time, complaints of backache and fatigue were reduced.
The cost of the improvement, made with local materials, was only about US$ 2 per shovel. However, this does not include the work of two ergonomists.
Figure 32: A worker using the old shovel. Notice his stooped posture.
The new shovel illustrates a number of interesting principles. It minimises back-bending postures and gives the worker greater leverage. The length of the new handle is adjustable to allow for the different size of workers. Above all, this example shows that even the most common Cools can be improved. Very often, a standard tool is provided to the worker without much thought on how it is to be used or whether there is a better alternative.
Figure 33: A worker using the modified shovel.
Case 15: Use of an appropriate lever
Lifting of heavy items is quite often done manually. In addition to the heavy weight of these items, they are usually difficult to lift due to the varying shapes and sizes. This was the case for the placement of wheels on axles in a truck manufacturing plant in Indonesia. Each wheel, together with tyre, weighed 50 kilograms and had to be lifted 50-75 cm. A tiring stooped posture was required.
Figure 34: Original working posture for lifting a wheel and tyre.
A spade-like device with two prongs was designed by the workers and introduced. It was nearly one metre long. Each wheel was first leaned against the axle and then lifted by this two-pronged device, which worked like a lever. After the wheel was properly installed onto the axle, the device was released. Because of the leverage, the force required was only 12.5 kilograms, or only one quarter of the weight of the wheel and tyre.
Figure 35: A lifting device designed by workers.
Figure 36: Use of the lifting device.
The cost for making the spade-like device was almost nil, as scraps were used and modified to form the device. The workers no longer felt the wheel lifting to be a heavy job.
Case 16: Improved methods of lifting
In a warehouse and packaging complex in Singapore with about 250 workers, there was a high incidence of backache and backstrain. In a few instances, slipped intervertebral discs occurred.
Data on causes of sick leave, worker injuries and complaints showed a relationship to the lifting and carrying of goods. The safety officer, personnel officer and general practitioner servicing the enterprise then drew up a programme to train the workers on the right methods of handling loads. Before the start of the training programme, the workers and line supervisors were consulted as to how and when the training should be conducted and their views were taken into account. It was decided to give half an hour's training to successive groups of approximately a dozen workers at a time. The safety officer and personnel officer served as instructors.
This training consisted of:
(a) a slide show on the anatomy of the back and lines of force when lifting and carrying;
(b) a talk on correct methods of lifting;
(c) a demonstration by either the instructors or volunteers on how to lift and carry various objects of different shapes and sizes either by one person alone or with others. The proper lifting method consisted of the following:
1. a good, firm grip
2. a straight back
3. proper position of the feet
4. the chin well tucked in
5. the arms kept as close to body as possible
6. proper co-ordination if lifting is done by two or more persons.
After the training, the safety officer frequently went around the worksite to observe if the workers really applied the techniques. The incidence of backaches and strains was reduced significantly over an observation period of twelve months following the completion of training for all the workers.
Direct costs were minimal, involving only expenditure of US$ 20-30 for the preparation of photographic slides and photocopying of notes for distribution to the workers. Indirect costs included workers' time off their work during the training and the time of the instructors. These costs were minimal compared to the total wage bill. Although no exact figures were available, it was estimated that the reduction of sick leave and the increase of efficiency made the solution well worthwhile.
Figure 37: The proper method of lifting step by step.
While this exercise was a success, it should be remembered that such short training courses require repetition. Not only do new workers need to be trained, but all the workers probably require refresher training at least once a year. It is also important to note that line supervisors have an important role to make sure their workers really use their newly-acquired knowledge at all times.
Case 17: Use of a pneumatic device
Awkward postures associated with the handling of materials and products can cause inefficiency, discomfort and muscle strain. Simple mechanical means are quite often an effective solution. This was experienced in a pressure vessel manufacturing plant in Thailand. Workers at the plant's leak test unit complained of discomfort and backstrain from bent postures required to push pressure vessels down into water for the leak test. The plant manager consulted engineers in the maintenance department and workers of the test unit on ways to eliminate the awkward postures.
Figure 38: A worker showing the original method of pushing down a pressure vessel in the water for a leak test.
The engineers came up with the idea of using a pneumatic cylinder to control the iron arms that held the vessels during testing. A pneumatic cylinder was installed at a cost of approximately US$ 75. The labour costs were not included as the work was done by the maintenance department.
Figure 39: The pneumatic cylinder used to push down the vessel.
Work efficiency improved and the handling of pressure vessels at the testing tub became much easier. There were no more complaints of work discomfort and back strain.
Case 18: Improved movement of materials to an assembly workshop
Materials handling costs were an appreciable part of the total production costs in a factory in India producing automobile parts. The section where the maximum amount of materials handling was done was selected for a layout study. This led to improved routes of access from stores to assembly workshops.
The original routes were circuitous. Automobile chassis, body and engine components were brought to the factory in 3.6 × 1.8 metre containers, each of which weighed as much as four tons. A mechanical hoist was used to pick up the containers from a bonded godown (warehouse), bring them to the factory entrance and place them on rollers on the floor. The containers then were manually pushed 30 metres along the rough and uneven ground to an open yard. They were opened there. After some components were carried to the main store, the remainder were stacked on trolleys which were pushed to the main assembly workshop about 75 metres away. Engine parts were taken on trolleys to the engine assembly line about 135 metres away. These long distances were due to the fact that there was only a circuitous route to the assembly lines.
Figure 40: Original transport routes.
Figure 41: The new time-saving transport route.
To improve handling, a sloped pathway was laid from the bonded godown to the unpacking section. Then the components for the main assembly workshop were carried by trolleys on a ramp directly connecting it with the unpacking yard. The engine parts were also taken directly to the engine assembly area. The transport distance was reduced to about one-third in both cases. In the case of transport to the engine assembly area, eight minutes could be saved per trip. Job hazards were also reduced.
Expenses of about US$ 1,000 were incurred to provide a sloped pathway from the bonded godown to the unpacking section, to make openings in the retaining wall and to provide a sloped ramp and a road along the wall. In addition to reduced handling time, the elimination of congestion and hazards were intangible savings for the company.
It is very important, from the point of view both of operational efficiency and of the working environment, to keep the premises of the worksite tidy and in good order. Means of access and exits must also be free from unnecessary obstacles. Good housekeeping contributes not only to better work flow but also to safety, health and comfort. It is an essential support to a good working environment.
Clear transport areas, easy access to worksites and storage areas help to achieve better work flow and internal transport. Bad housekeeping can often slow work down or create additional work. Badly stacked materials may fall and cause damage, delays and serious injury. A fire may be started if combustible waste is not regularly removed or if excessive quantities of flammable materials are kept in workshops.
Moreover, bad housekeeping can cause a very wide range of accidents. These include falls on slippery, greasy or damp floors; hitting or tripping over materials, machine parts or other obstacles left lying in passageways; cuts from objects protruding from work tables or cabinets; punctures from nails or other sharp parts on the floor; and failure of lifting or handling aids. Health risks also arise from dust and chemicals which should be cleaned up.
There are many low-cost measures which help maintain good housekeeping. If passageways and traffic areas and exits are properly marked and defined, this already helps a great deal. For the storage of raw materials, finished products, tools and accessories, special areas can be set aside. Storage racks at appropriate places can help keep working areas clear. Adequate receptacles for waste and debris should be conveniently placed. If these measures are designed so that they make it easier for people to maintain cleanliness and order, then their cooperation is easier to ensure. Just talking to people about tidiness or leaving it to the last few minutes of the working day will not be very helpful. Wherever necessary, day-to-day responsibility for clean workshops, sanitary facilities and yards should be assigned to specific groups of persons.
Case 19: Markings on the floor
In a metal fabrication factory in Metro Manila, the Philippines, which employed about 60 workers, there were no clear-cut passageways or specific work areas. This created an atmosphere of disorganisation and constant, imminent hazards. The owner made a study on how he could re-arrange the work areas. The first step he took was to install floor markings using yellow paint. This made it possible to clearly designate work areas and passageways.
Figure 42: Cluttered workplace before changes.
These markings greatly helped the workers to work in the proper areas. The workers were consulted on how to define these areas. The passageways, marked in the central part of the plant, facilitated the workers' movements. The owner went on to install small signs for each work area, such as 'welding area', 'assembly area', etc. Areas were also defined for storing metal sheets.
Figure 43: Welding area with markings on the floor.
The cost included about US$ 10 for paint, US$ 6 for labour for one day and US $6 for signboards. The total direct cost was about US$ 22. The results achieved were remarkable. The workers felt that there was now improved order and system in the work areas. The movement inside the plant was facilitated and its cleaning made easier. The owner reported that the markings taught the workers to arrange operations within designated areas and thus to keep order and cleanliness. He expected fewer accidents as a result of these changes.
Similarly, floor markings were effective in maintaining housekeeping in a printing factory in an industrial estate in Madras, India. Forty workers were working in the print shop. The manager had been complaining that the passageways, especially those leading to the main exit, were cluttered with piles of raw and printed materials. Yellow markings were painted on the floor which helped designate work areas and passageways. The cost was less than US$ 10. The manager noted an improvement in the flow of work and space utilisation. An unexpected byproduct was increased ventilation that allowed more fresh air to reach machine operators.
Figure 44: Floor markings for better housekeeping in a print shop.
Case 20: Access to work locations
There were many obstructions in the passageways of an engineering factory in Pakistan employing about 50 workers. These obstructions mainly consisted of disorderly piles of materials and finished products which made it difficult for the workers to get to their work locations. These obstructions often led to injuries.
Markings in yellow paint were made on the floor to demonstrate access to the work locations. At the same time, storage racks for finished goods were placed along the access routes. The management, with the co-operation of a supervisor, gave a short training class to the workers to familiarise them with the advantages of good access to work locations and of preventing injuries. This included an on-the-spot demonstration of a clear passageway versus an obstructed one. The supervisor also started to take initiatives in housekeeping. As a result of the training, markings, racks and the access route remained cleared.
Figure 45: Difficult access to an engineering work location.
The direct cost incurred included US$ 10 spent for paint, a brush and stencils as well as labour for painting the markings and US$ 20 for providing the storage racks. Savings were not immediately obvious, though they could include reductions in injuries and sickness absences and increased efficiency. The manager also mentioned that the workers had become more safety-conscious.
Figure 46: Easier access to work locations due to marking and clearing access routes.
A similar experience was reported in a garment factory in Bali. It was difficult for workers to approach their sewing machines, as the machines were crowded into a small space. With common sense measures, such as re-arrangement of the layout of machines and clearance of passageways, access to each work location was made far easier than before. Instead of arranging the sewing machines in a haphazard manner, they were now neatly arranged in rows with ample space in between. As a result, greater comfort and safety were achieved. The morale of the workers also became appreciably higher with less crowding and better housekeeping. The costs for these improvements were minimal compared with the results achieved.
Case 21: Handrails to clear space
In a Singapore electronics factory, it was found that goods were often stacked close to an emergency exit that was near a loading site. Repeated admonitions to the workers not to do so did not help. Lines were then drawn to demarcate limits beyond which goods should not be stacked, but these were ignored most of the time. Handrails were then constructed around the doors to create a clear rectangular space around the emergency exit. This proved effective. The exit doors were always found to be clear with no goods stacked up beyond the handrails. The fire hose placed near the exit was no longer blocked. The cost of building the handrails came to about US$ 250.
A similar idea was used at an engineering workshop in India which employed 40 workers. The approach to the main switches in an emergency was obstructed by bad housekeeping. Although there were handrails in front of the switches, materials and waste products were piled up along the handrails so that it was difficult to reach the switches. The manager placed a large wooden table along the handrails after removing all the obstacles and cleaning up the premises. No particular expenses were incurred. This table, along with the handrails, helped maintain easy access to the main switches.
Figure 47: Handrails to keep an emergency exit clear of obstacles.
Figure 48: Handrails in front of main switches. A table put in front of the rails to avoid piling up of materials.
Case 22: Storage shelves
In a garment factory in the Philippines with about 60 workers, the manager and production supervisors found the inventory and monitoring of finished and semi-finished goods difficult as they were scattered around. There was no centralised storage area and workers tended to pile the goods in various places in the workroom. The manager had to wait until the end of the day when supervisors submitted inventory reports.
The flow of goods and the existing storage system were reviewed. The manager drew up a new storage scheme, which included the use of storage shelves. Signs were also put up to identify semi-finished goods. The work area was re-arranged so that the storage area was accessible to the workers involved. Tags were put on the products.
The cost of the storage shelves, inclusive of materials and labour, was about US$ 300. The indirect cost for transferring the stocks to the shelves was minimal since this work was done as part of the normal production process.
The use of shelves with proper markings greatly facilitated the flow and the inventory of finished and semi-finished goods vis-is the production target of the day. In the past the manager had not seen the need for utilising shelves in the factory. Storage of materials had been left to improvised procedures. With increased production, the manager was forced to find a more effective system. Shelves were an excellent solution.
Figure 49: Newly-made storage shelves.
Case 23: Hire-net storage racks
In a shoe factory in the Philippines, storage of raw and unused materials and shoe lasts of various sizes was a problem due to lack of space. As the factory was surrounded by residential houses, it was impossible to expand the factory building. Easy access to the stored materials and lasts was also important as they could become necessary any time according to new orders.
To solve the problem, storage racks for shoe lasts were made of metal frames and wire nets. These racks could be piled up in such a way that any of the lasts could easily be taken out through the open upper front portion of the racks. The items could be easily seen through the wire nets. These racks were useful for storing a considerable amount of lasts and keeping the storage space in a corner of the workshop trolley. The racks cost approximately US$ 200.
A similar experience was reported from an engineering unit with 13 workers in India. The unit was producing satellite antennas. To eliminate haphazard piling of materials and semi-products in the shop area, racks were fabricated for stocking materials and semi-products. The racks cost US$ 420. The manager felt that the new practice of utilising racks contributed to better quality of the final products.
Figure 50: Wire-net storage racks for shoe lasts.
Case 24: Waste boxes
In a garment factory in the Philippines, cloth remnants were scattered all around the work area. This impeded the free movement of workers. After discussion in a meeting called by the manager, a wooden box was provided for each worker. Every day one of the workers was responsible for emptying the boxes at noon and after 5 p.m. in addition to his or her regular work. This assignment was rotated among the workers.
This measure was implemented a week after the workers were fully oriented to the change. The measure proved successful. The cloth remnants were now always placed in the box.
The total cost of constructing the boxes was US$ 102. Production increased by an average of 7 per cent. It was estimated that about US$ 15 a day was saved as a result of this measure.
Figure 51: Arranging waste boxes to help maintain good housekeeping.
Case 25: Trays for oil spills
In the packing section of a vegetable oil plant in India, oil was spilt while being transported over roller conveyors from tin-filling machines to seaming machines. In addition to the waste involved, the spills made the floor slippery. Ten out of the 50 employees of the plant worked at the packing section. To reduce spills on the floor and minimise wastage of the oil, steel trays with handles were provided below the roller conveyors. These trays could be conveniently removed and reinserted after the collection of the oil. The trays were 30 × 90 cm and were made with 20 mm thick mild steel plates. Each cost approximately US$ 100. Thirty such trays were made. The trays prevented spills on floor and thus avoided the danger of accidents.
Since the waste of vegetable oil previously amounted to two litres per day, the yearly saving on oil was over US$ 2,000.
Case 26: Skirting along drains
In a foundry which employed 118 workers in Malaysia, the drains were often choked by raw materials and process wastes washed into them, especially during the rainy season. When the drains were blocked, overflowing water disturbed the work flow. In addition, debris in the drains caused an unpleasant smell which caused the workers to complain.
Debris found in the drains was analysed to determine its composition. It was found that one section of the foundry was mainly responsible for the blockage. Once the problem area was identified, skirting was laid along the drain. The skirting was 10 cm high and 15 cm wide. Then mild steel grill covers over the drain were re-arranged to have smaller gaps of about 1 cm each instead of previous larger gaps. These measures effectively prevented drain blockages.
The cost of installing the skirting was about US$ 100. However, saving in overtime pay for gardeners for cleaning and flushing blocked drains amounted to approximately US$ 150 a month. Savings from the prevention of loss of raw materials was valued between US$ 6-10 per month.
Figure 52: Layout of the raw materials section before improvement.
Figure 53: Drain grills and skirting along the drain after improvement.
Case 27: Prevention of injuries with a simple device
In an office in Thailand, there were huge quantities of file folders placed in a series of steel cabinets which the clerks had to open and close extremely frequently. Sometimes some drawers were left open. The weight of the drawer contents would then tip the cabinet over and sometimes cause injuries to passing workers as a consequence. The office employed ten clerks and was part of a major warehouse in an import-export company.
The office manager drew the clerks' attention to the danger of leaving the file drawers open, but accidents still continued because of the turnover of staff and the rush of work.
The manager then had the warehouse workers fix an L-shaped bar to the back and top of all the cabinets. This bar effectively united the series of cabinets into one unit. The individual cabinets now could not therefore be tipped over if drawers were left open. There was no further falling over of cabinets and therefore no resulting injuries.
Figure 54: Cabinets prevented from tipping over.
The cost of the L-shaped steel bar, commonly used in warehouse shelves, was US$ 0.60 per 30 cm. The line of cabinets extended to 4.5 metres, so the cost of the bar was US$ 9. The labour time costs were minimal as the workers took only a few minutes to install the bar. The clerks took several minutes to clear and replace the files. The punching of holes in the cabinets were not considered a liability as the cabinets had no residual value when they were discarded. The savings made were not easy to estimate, but the most recent injury to the shoulder in that office due to falling cabinets had been estimated to cost US$ 45 in medical treatment and US$ 50 as sick leave for one week.
In other situations, e.g. warehouses, injuries also occur from falling objects as a result of bad and unstable stacking of materials on floors or shelves. Proper measures can likewise help prevent such injuries at minimal cost.
Case 28: Improving access to a frequently-visited work area
Access to a varnishing section situated in a 1.8 metre high mezzanine was a problem in a furniture manufacturing company in the Philippines. The company employed 27 workers and had an area of about 800 square metres. The workers had to carry goods up and down to and from the varnishing section. The section was about 50 metres away from the hand sanding section.
Figure 55: A varnishing section in a mezzanine.
A space of about 20 square metres in a wood storeroom was identified as a place for the transfer of the varnishing section. The place was situated next to the sanding section on the same level. It took two days for the workers to clear the stockroom. Installation of divisions and enclosures in the newly-created space was done by three workers in the following week. The varnishing equipment and other tools were shifted to the new area.
The direct cost involved amounted to US$ 100 for materials and labour. With the new location of the varnishing section, it was estimated chat three minutes could be saved per transfer of a smaller product such as a chair. This meant a saving of 12 working minutes per transfer in the case of carrying a bed as four persons were involved, and saving of 9 minutes per transfer in the case of carrying a table or sofa.
Figure 56: A wood storeroom transformed into a new varnishing section on the ground floor.
It is important to utilise workers' skills effectively. Managers are expected to find the most appropriate way of assigning tasks and work procedures taking the various skills of individual workers into account. It sometimes happens that a job may be monotonously simple or excessively demanding. It is therefore important to improve work organisation and job content. Work efficiency will increase when workers are free from excessive stress, fatigue or monotony. When workers feel their skills are properly used, they will care more about production. They are less likely to make mistakes or be absent from work. All these factors relate to increased job satisfaction and contribute to retaining productive workers.
It should not be forgotten that workers have very different backgrounds, skills and preferences. One worker may emphasise pay, another companionship, and yet another learning on the job. These needs and preferences also change with time. Generally speaking, however, it is helpful to have jobs which are not strictly machine-paced, are varied and give opportunities for communication and support among fellow workers. Mechanisation can help with these aspects, but can also easily lead to machine-paced or boring tasks.
No single organisational improvement will be applicable to all jobs, especially because needs and preferences change with place and time. Nevertheless, these examples give us some ideas about low-cost methods of improving work organisation. Small changes can have a significant impact on job content.
Case 29: Using a fixed wood plane to reduce effort
Workers using small hand wood planes took considerable time and energy to finish wood slats in a wooden cask manufacturing enterprise in Calcutta, India. The enterprise had ten employees. The movement of a heavy plane when planing small but long slats required much effort.
To reduce the time and energy spent on wood planing, a large fixed plane of 15 × 15 × 200 cm was made from hardwood. The cutting blade was fitted in the proper central position. Workers held the edge of the flat wooden slats and ran them over the plane for planing operations. Some time was required to learn to use the new plane. Much less time and effort were now required for rough planing. Detail work following the rough planing was done as before with hand-held planes.
About US$ 30 was spent, including the cost of labour to make the new plane.
Figure 57: Original method of planing wood pieces to make slats.
Figure 58: Arrangement for a newly-made 200 cm long plane. Wood slats are run over the plane.
Case 30: Improved machine feeding
In the drilling section of a company making electrical components in the Philippines, the drilling of holes in copper fuse holders for electrical safety switches was inefficient. An operator had to set the material in the mould and then pull a lever down to release the drill for punching holes in the fuse holder. He then reset the drill to repeat the operation. Since the operator had to drill several hundred holders per shift, the manual process was monotonous and tiring. In addition, there was the danger of sustaining hand injuries from the cutting drills.
Following a time and motion study conducted by the engineering department of the company, the drilling operation was redesigned by the plant engineers. The machines were provided with a twin feed system as compared to the previous single feed. An operator could insert as many as 20 blank fuse holders at a time. Pneumatic cylinders were used to drive the drills. The operator had merely to flick the switch on and the drill would punch holes on the fuse holders, which were automatically placed on the tie two at a time. After a trial run was made and some design improvements introduced, each operator was trained on the new machine.
As a result, the operators stopped taking unscheduled rest pauses to relieve arm fatigue. Average output per shift increased considerably and hand accidents due to the drill were eliminated.
The cost for design and installation of the improved drilling machine amounted to almost US$ 115. While available materials were used as much as possible, the total cost of materials used in the re-design was estimated to reach approximately US$ 2,000. Annual maintenance cost is estimated to be US$ 80.
This example deals with machine feeding, which often reveals problems causing fatigue for workers and at the same time less-than-optimal use of machine time. While the solution in this case was relatively expensive, it also had a relatively high payoff. In other situations, buffer stocks magazines, easy access to materials and similar improvements can be quite simple and inexpensive.
Case 31: Sitting arrangements on a bottle filling job
In an aerated beverage plant in Burma, the work of operators of bottle filling machines was relatively light, but had to be done all the time in a standing position. The workers complained of discomfort, fatigue and low back pain. A legal claim was also made as the Factories Act 1951 had a provision requiring that suitable sitting arrangements be made for workers if the work can be done in a sitting position. Discussion was held with the workers and the problem was studied by the plant safety committee and factory inspectors.
Chairs were designed based on the measured averages of body dimensions of the operators and the suggestions received from them. Possible voluntary changes of the work posture in the sitting position were foreseen. Each seat was provided with a backrest and a footrest. The seat height was 79 cm from the floor with the footrest about 25 cm from the floor, and the adjustable backrest was 23 × 40 cm.
A seat with an adjustable backrest cost approximately US$ 50 and one with a fixed backrest about US$ 25.
The flow of the process became smoother than before. The operators concerned highly appreciated the seating arrangements and were satisfied with the improvements. No more complaints of back pain and numbness in the legs were heard. The operators felt they no longer needed to make frequent work disruptions in order to rest.
Figure 59: A bottle filling operator at work in a standing position.
Figure 60: The operator working in a seated position with his feet on the footrest.
Case 32: Introduction of job rotation
In a small factory producing plastic goods in the Philippines, a particular job was disliked by the workers. The job was to remove excess plastic from the open end of plastic bottles after they had been made using injection molds. The task involved taking a bottle and putting its mouth around a small grinder while slightly turning the mouth round. When finished, the bottle was dropped into a large plastic bag. The task was uninteresting, although necessary. Only a few seconds were needed for the polishing of a bottle mouth. The work was done while standing as some force was necessary to turn the bottle properly. Compared with the other jobs in the factory, such as operating the injection-molding machines, labelling, inspecting, packing or preparation of materials, the job seemed too simple and boring. The person doing the job was also isolated from other workers. Productivity was low.
On hearing that everybody hated this job, the manager adopted a rotation scheme including this and some other jobs. In the scheme, a group of several workers took turns and worked at one of these jobs for only one day at a time. After polishing bottle mouths, each group member could do other jobs on the subsequent days. These other jobs were done while seated with other workers around a large work table, which workers preferred.
No direct costs were incurred in adopting the rotation scheme. The scheme was welcomed by the workers as they no longer risked long turns on disagreeable jobs. Relations between the workers also improved. The new scheme apparently had favourable effects on the workers' morale.
Case 33: Improved work-rest cycles
About 50 workers were employed in a steel rolling mill in Calcutta, India. A combination of high thermal and work loads caused fatigue and low efficiency especially during summer months. The workers were assigned to two groups, each group working for one hour and then resting for one hour in turn. The existing work-rest cycle, however, did not seem satisfactory.
After examining the situation, it was proposed that a work-rest cycle of half-an-hour would be a solution. Experts from a physiology department of the University helped the management assess the level of fatigue of the existing one-hour cycle and the proposed half-an-hour cycle. The study revealed that a work-rest cycle of half an hour reduced fatigue at the end of each cycle. With the workers' consent, the new work-rest cycle was adopted.
No extra cost was involved in the transfer to a new, shorter work rest cycle. Though a few of the workers did not like the new arrangement on the grounds that the half-an-hour rest period was not sufficient for playing cards, it was welcomed by all the others. The shorter cycle helped reduce fatigue and decreased the likelihood of heat disorders in the summer.
Case 34: Shorter periods of continuous work and job rotation
Rotation of jobs, together with a change in the duration of continuous work, took place in a bottle washing section of a medium-sized factory in Malaysia producing beverages. Fourteen workers in this section had been subjected to continuous discomfort. Some male workers had been complaining of backache from carrying and placing two dozen bottles on a roller conveyor of crates and packing filled bottles into crates. Female operators of washing or filling machines had been exposed to noise over 90 dBA. Four female workers inspecting 200 bottles per minute had been complaining of visual discomfort. The repetitive nature of the work was monotonous and affected efficiency.
The management came up with the idea of switching the positions of the workers every 15 minutes. Nine female and five male workers were involved. Two female and one male workers were also added as relief workers. At every interval of 15 minutes, the workers switched positions according to a set pattern, males with males and females with females (e.g., machine operation, bottle inspection, packing, and then a period of rest for female workers). With the new rotation, the female workers had a rest period of 15 minutes after every 75 minutes of work.
Figure 61: The production layout where rotation of jobs was introduced.
The new set-up required no particular costs except for the wages of two female and one male relief workers. These wages, amounting to about US $280 per month, however, might not be considered solely due to the new arrangement, as some relief workers had to be assigned to make up for the absence of certain workers. When the new rotation system was started, the production initially decreased due to the workers' unfamiliarity with the new positions. But eventually they became familiar with all the new positions, and the system paid off handsomely. The workers expressed satisfaction with the new system. The system relieved the workers of monotony and helped maintain production efficiency. The 15-minute pause after every 60-75 minutes of work also appeared sufficient to refresh them.
Case 35: Frequent short breaks in production
In a cigarette factory in Bali, Indonesia, about 600 female workers were engaged in the production of manually rolled cigarettes. The monotonous and continuous nature of work caused fatigue and physical complaints towards the end of the day and productivity was low.
The working hours were from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., with two half-hour breaks taken from 9.00-9.30 and from 11.30-12.00. These two breaks were apparently not used effectively because of the piece-rate system. Workers felt it disadvantageous to leave their work. This seemed to aggravate their eventual fatigue. It was also found that the production dropped in the latter half of the week.
A new work-rest schedule was introduced which gave five-minute breaks after every two hours of work. During each break, the workers were given a cup of tea. The cost incurred was US$ 0.15 per worker per day, as a cup of tea cost only US$ 0.05. As a result, a worker could produce, on average, 50 extra rolls each day. No significant reduction in the production rate was seen towards the end of the day, nor towards the end of the week. Using a questionnaire, it was also confirmed that the workers experienced less fatigue at the end of the day's work in the new schedule compared to the previous system.
Mean Production (in 50 pieces)
E = 67.9
X = 11.3
P < 5%
P < 5%
P < 5%
A = Control Group; B = with 5 minutes rest + tea at 2 hrs interval.
Figure 62: Comparison of production curves before and after the introduction of short breaks.
Physical working conditions differ from one enterprise to another. They are closely related to the work process, and depend on the various arrangements of the work premises. It is essential to keep a safe, healthy and comfortable environment as it contributes to work efficiency and the well-being of workers.
If the physical working environment is not safeguarded, there may be many ill-effects on the enterprise and its workers. Accidents due to a poor working environment are unfortunately very common, especially in developing countries. As a result, there is often a loss of life and great suffering on the part of the workers and many man-days lost on the part of the enterprise. Poor lighting has given rise to many health problems, such as eyestrain, and predisposed workers to accidents and reduced productivity or quality of work. Excessive temperature and humidity have resulted in serious discomfort and poor morale of workers. High noise levels have caused deafness in thousands of workers. Improper handling or storage of hazardous materials has led to poisoning.
In many cases, there are overriding dangers or problems that require careful technical solutions. For example, the degree of toxicity of hazardous substances is not easily known to the employer or workers. The effects of noise can eventually lead to deafness, but the hearing loss may not be observed for many years. It is too late when we find symptom of poisoning from chemicals or deafness due to noise. There are therefore regulatory measures covered by laws and regulations which must be followed. At times, technical advice is indispensable to identify effective solutions, and exchange of information between enterprises with similar operations can be helpful.
However, there are a number of measures that can be undertaken by the employer himself as part of his daily responsibilities. A workplace which is adequately designed with good lighting and ventilation, isolation of noisy machines, separate handling of hazardous substances and ample space for workers, contributes greatly to a proper physical environment.
The solutions to environmental problems are often simple and inexpensive. It is often true that prevention is better than cure. Commonsense and foresight may be all that is necessary, sometimes with a small amount of care and money. At other times, problems may have already occurred. The management may realise that a problem exists because of complaints by workers or because of careful assessment of existing hazards. There may also be high labour turnover or absence rates or other indicators of poor morale or low productivity among workers.
At other times, consultations between workers and supervisors or management have led to fruitful results. Often ideas for solutions develop because someone in an enterprise had seen or read about improvements in similar cases. Thus it could be very useful to make it a habit to visit other enterprises in the neighbourhood, especially those in the same line of business.
A note of caution should be made concerning environmental problems. It is always wise to seek advice when dealing with specific hazards. An effective strategy for the control of these specific hazards, as in mechanical hazards or dealing with harmful substances, should make use of all the experience and skills available. The various experts dealing with the different aspects of the physical working environment should be consulted when and where necessary. There is no hard and fast rule on this. A reasonable level of awareness and basic knowledge of the subject would go a long way towards making the right decisions in this matter.
Lighting has a significant effect on work efficiency, comfort and safety. Although our eyes can adjust to a wide range of brightness, efficiency and safety will deteriorate unless workers can clearly see what they are doing.
No one will challenge the need for proper lighting. Nevertheless, there are great variations from one factory to another in the lighting levels during similar operations. There are many workshops where better lighting can improve productivity and reduce accidents.
Proper lighting varies according to the tasks that need to be performed. Fine work requires stronger lighting than other kinds of work. Lighting which is adequate for simple loading or heavy manual work will not be satisfactory for machine or office work. Fine finishing or painting, assembling or inspecting of small parts, drawing offices, and manipulation of dark objects require much higher standards of lighting. On the other hand, glare from too bright light sources should also be avoided, as it could lead to eyestrain. Strong reflections can also hamper work. Sudden shifts in illumination, as in the case of moving from areas of strong daylight to poorly lit areas, can result in accidents. It is particularly important that older people have plenty of proper lighting.
Proper lighting needs a good combination of daylight conditions and artificial lights. There are many means of improving lighting at low cost. Installation of skylights or wider window openings can greatly help. Relocation of worksites in relation to windows or light sources is sometimes helpful. The adjustment of the height or re-positioning of light fixtures can often make a great deal of difference to lighting. Using light colours for walls and fixtures should be considered. Provision of local lighting or spot lights, especially for operations which require higher lighting levels than others, can often be done at relatively low cost. Simple measures such as regular cleaning of windows, lamp-shades or lamp-covers and replacing old lamps or flickering fluorescent light tubes are also important.
Prevention of direct or reflected glare can be achieved by a change in the light direction towards the worker or by the use of adequate shades for the light sources.
Many examples of low-cost improvements in lighting can be found in developing countries. One advantage is that the enterprise, once aware of the need, can carry out improvements in lighting relatively easily. The cost of such improvements per worksite is usually low. The examples in this section also show that improvements in lighting can lead to a noticeable improvement in work efficiency and the quality of products.
Case 36: Installing skylights
In a furniture-making factory in the Philippines, workers complained about the inadequate lighting facilities. The manager also noticed that work was hampered by the poor lighting. The management installed a number of skylight roofing sheets made of clear polyvinyl chloride among the galvanised roofing sheets. There was a marked improvement in the quality of finished products. There was a noticeable reduction in the re-work rate in the factory. There were no more complaints about the lighting from the workers.
The cost incurred was about US$ 150 which was mainly used for the materials. The skylight sheets were installed by the workers. The work was completed in a week by two workers (average wage, US$ 4 per eight-hour day).
Figure 63: Skylights installed in a furniture factory.
In another tile-manufacturing company Which employed about 20 workers in the Philippines, the workplace was enclosed with concrete walls with few openings. It had been designed that way to prevent sawdust from spreading to the neighbouring residential houses. The manager and his son discussed a plan on how to provide adequate lighting. They had two options to choose from. One was to add ten fluorescent lamps to illuminate the whole area sufficiently. The other was to install six skylights on plastic transparent roofings to enable the natural sunlight to enter the work area.
They eventually decided to install six skylights instead of lamps to save their electricity bills. The six Skylights were installed on two sloping sides of the factory roof. As a result, there was a considerable increase in lighting. About 15 of the total 20 workers benefited from the improvement. The cost for plastic roofings was US$ 35 with the cost of installation at about US$ 11. Considering the electricity and maintenance costs of fluorescent lamps, the installation of skylights proved to be more economical.
Case 37: Fibre-glass skylight sheets
In a big workshop in Calcutta, lamps were placed near the ceiling so as to make enough space for the operation of an overhead crane. As the illumination in the workshop was poor even in the daytime, some skylights were installed. Corrugated fibre-glass transparent sheets were fitted into the roof at four different places directly above the areas requiring more illumination. As a result, the workers had fewer complaints of eyestrain, and safety also improved.
The approximate cost of the fibre-glass sheets was US $55 for 20 square feet and the fitting charge was US$ 5. The costs saved cannot be assessed but the savings in electricity bills amounted to US$ 10 per month. As the electrical lights required less use, there was also a 30 per cent reduction in the costs of replacement of the bulbs.
These two examples show the remarkable improvement in lighting which would result simply by making better use of daylight. Skylights cannot provide enough lighting at all times of day but can contribute to increased illumination levels and savings in electricity bills.
Case 38: Painting the walls white
In a pump-manufacturing factory in Madras, lighting inside the workrooms was found insufficient for work. The reason was not clear to the manager. Sufficient tube lights hanging from the roof had been provided. There were corrugated plastic sheets over the roof at intervals to let in daylight. On careful examination, however, it was noticed that the hanging tube lights were covered with accumulated dirt. The clear plastic sheets were also covered with dirt and sacks. The workers thought the sacks was necessary because of sunlight glare during the summer. It was also noticed that the ceilings and walls were dirty and therefore proper reflection of light was hindered.
It was decided to remove the dirt and the sacks, and to paint the ceilings and walls white after thorough cleaning. All the tube light fittings were cleaned and the underside of the reflectors was also painted white. The ceiling and walls were given two coats of white paint. When this was completed, the factory looked entirely new and there was adequate light for the workrooms.
The white paint for the ceilings and walls cost nearly US$ 220. The cost was small in view of the large benefit in increased production. The workers were happy as eyestrain and discomfort at work were notably reduced.
Figure 64: Both ceilings and walls painted white.
In another small workshop producing electronic equipment parts in Madras, general lighting was also poor. The windows and doors and their north-facing glass should have been sufficient for general lighting in the daytime, but the walls, windows and doors were all dirty. Hence it was decided to clean all the walls and windows and to give the walls a coat of primer and two coats of white paint. As a result, the general lighting conditions improved remarkably. Productivity increased slightly with less complaints of fatigue from workers. The total cleaning and painting cost was US$ 350. The cleaning charges per month were estimated to be US$ 10.
Figure 65: Skylights and windows cleaned and ceilings and walls white painted.
Case 39: Lowering lights
The sewing and knitting sections of a garment firm in the Philippines, with about 65 workers, were affected by poor lighting. Women workers at the sewing and knitting sections on the second floor, and male workers at the knitting section on the ground floor complained of low levels of lighting. The rather high rate of rejected knitted and sewn products seemed in part to be related to the poor lighting. When a foreman talked with the workers, they pointed out the very high positions of fluorescent lamps. There were six pairs of fluorescent lamps on the ceiling of the knitting section, but they were too high and not adequately located in relation to the workers' positions. Using sixty metres of wire, the fluorescent lamps at the two sections were lowered and relocated at more appropriate positions.
The cost incurred was only as US$ 15 for 60 metres of wire. It was no longer necessary to install more lamps. There were no more complaints about eyestrain due to poor lighting. Productivity increased by five to ten per cent.
Figure 66: Fluorescent lights arranged for each workstation in a knitting section.
Figure 67: Lights lowered to an appropriate position to give more light on knitting operations.
Case 40: Repositioning lights with new reflectors
In a fitters' workshop of an engineering factory in Burma, bad illumination was considered to be a factor in causing some accidents and also bad workmanship. The workers complained of visual discomfort. The production manager who surveyed the illumination with a photometer found that the low level of illumination was due to the distance between the existing four overhead lights and the workbench. These four-foot fluorescent lights were without reflectors and fitted on a single overhead hanger.
Figure 68: A 40 W fluorescent light in the fitters' shop.
The positions of the lights were lowered by about 30 cm so that they were about 130 cm above the workbench. This height was found to be optimal as the lights were kept beyond the visual angles of the workers. The lights were fitted on two parallel overhead hangers in a zig-zag pattern. All were fitted with proper reflectors. Approximately US$ 150 was spent on refitting the lights with reflectors. Electricians among the factory staff fitted the lights on the newly arranged overhead hangers.
The illumination measured prior to modification was 130 lux at the workbench height. The improvement resulted in raising the illumination level to 280 lux. The management and the workers agreed that the improvement was satisfactory and reduced risks of injury.
Figure 69: Modified positions of fluorescent lights provided with proper reflectors.
Figure 70: A worker working under the repositioned light with an illumination level of 280 lux.
Case 41: Improving lighting fixtures
The owner of a shoe-making factory in the Philippines, which employed 80 workers, discovered that there was a need for more adequate lighting in its production area of approximately 350 square metres. The workers were asked to specify how lighting in their individual workstations could be improved or modified. Several lamps were found to be either broken or flickering. Some workers complained of fatigue, headache and eyestrain due to inadequate lighting.
With the help of an electrician, the owner made a plan for modifying the lighting arrangements taking into account feedback from the workers. About 20 new fluorescent lamps were installed in place of incandescent bulbs and broken or flickering fluorescent ones.
Reflectors were then fitted into the fluorescent lamps using available materials such as hard cartons and aluminium foil. The light fixtures were lowered to a level appropriate for production work. In most cases, this level was about 30 cm lower than the original height. Instructions were given to the workers to keep the lighting units clean.
After these improvements, the production increased by about 10 per cent on average. The repetitions required decreased by about 25 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the firm's workers considered that the additional fluorescent lamps and other changes undoubtedly reduced their discomfort.
The cost of the twenty units of fluorescent lamps, three rolls of aluminium foil and wood attachments and the labour cost of an electrician and carpenter amounted to approximately US$ 65.
Similar improvements of fluorescent lamp fixtures were made in a small pinewood furniture manufacturing company with 27 workers, also in the Philippines. With the assistance of a stock clerk, the owner-manager consulted the workers about better lighting. They agreed to install reflectors for each of the 25 fluorescent lamps. These reflectors were made of plywood, aluminium foil, tapes and wires. The cost incurred was minimal, approximately US$ 30. The workers felt more comfortable and the increase in their efficiency was estimated to be approximately 10 per cent.
Case 42: Better lighting for an assembly plant
An assembly plant making electronic products in Singapore with 240 people working in two shifts undertook a better lighting scheme in a section of about 180 square metres. This was because several workers of the section had complained of visual discomfort and the rejection rate of assembled sets was quite high.
After a survey of illumination levels and glare and shadow problems, the lights were modified in the following three ways. First, the light covers were cleaned, which led to a significant improvement. Second, the overhead lights were lowered to an optimal height to give good illumination, no glare and no interference with bodily movements. Third, defective lights were replaced with new ones. As a result, an average increase of 20 per cent was noted in the number of assembled sets for every shift, and there was average decrease of 15 per cent in the number of rejected sets per shift. The workers agreed that eyestrain was reduced and comfort increased.
The costs incurred were approximately US$ 500, including lights and labour costs. Since the lights were installed during the weekends when there was no production work, there was no interruption of work during the modifications. Savings from increased productivity far outweighed the costs.
Figure 71: Typewriter assembly operations which require good lighting.
Figure 72: Overhead lights lowered to an optimal height over assembly lines.
This example underlines an important point. Lighting can be improved considerably by modifications in the position and maintenance of lights, and production work, such as assembling small parts, can benefit a great deal from these inexpensive modifications. For similar reasons, lights should be maintained on a regular basis.
Case 43: Glare and lack of contrast
In an electrical assembly plant in Sri Lanka, the lighting from fluorescent light tubes was quite adequate. The work tables were varnished and polished and covered with thick white paper. The walls were light yellow. The components assembled were white or pale yellow. The problem here was glare and lack of contrast of colours. The management covered the table surface with black paper and repainted the walls pale blue. The results were encouraging. The rejection of assembled parts fell by 15 per cent and production increased by 10 per cent. The cost of the improvements came to US$ 120.
Case 44: Reducing injury risks by adding lights
In the section of an engineering factory in Burma where a grinding machine was located, six cases of a foreign body in the eye were reported within a period of three months. The existing general illumination level was found to be only 60 lux, with the light coming from a transparent roofing sheet somewhat distant from the machine. With this low illumination level, the workers did not use the protective eye-glasses provided which were dirty and scratched.
The situation was improved by fitting two additional sets of 40 W fluorescent lights over the machine. The illumination level was raised to 260 lux. New protective eye-glasses were provided. It was also found that the workers who used the machine did not know how to close properly the shutter at the top of the hood guard. The workers were instructed on the use of the shutter which helped prevent dust from escaping. The management agreed to install in the future a standard exhaust system for removing dust.
The two new sets of fluorescent lights cost US$ 140. There were no more complaints of visual discomfort. When the safety committee checked the work station three months after the modifications, the workers were keeping the shutter closed and wearing safety glasses at work. No cases of a foreign body in the eye were reported after the improvement.
Figure 73: An operator working without protective glasses and with the shutter at the top of the hood guard in an open position.
Figure 74: Work at the grinding machine with a newly fitted light. The operator is wearing protective glasses and the shutter is in the closed position.
Most of the developing countries lie in the tropical or sub-tropical regions of the world. A hot and humid climate is therefore common in such countries and may lead to heat and ventilation problems. In addition, manufacturing equipment and processes are probably equally common as causes of heat problems. Examples of heat-producing equipment and processes include furnaces for smelting, heating and other activities, welding, boilers, glass-making and generators. Hard physical work increases heat production within the body and thus adds to the heat problem in hot workplaces. Often heat problems result from the combination of the weather, manufacturing processes and poor ventilation.
Excessive heat affects the comfort and productivity of workers. They may become restless, lose their powers of concentration or feel dizzy. Sometimes workers may develop body aches and muscle cramps. These cramps are due to excessive loss of water and salt from the body through perspiration. Occasionally, the heat may be so severe as to affect the brain. The workers may then suddenly lose consciousness. In such severe cases, death may occur.
Noise is also a widespread problem in enterprises. Machines for stamping, pressing, rivetting or punching metal parts are often very noisy. Weaving looms, bottling apparatus and generators can also produce a lot of noise. In construction, piling machines and many other pieces of equipment can create noise problems. There are also many other sources of high noise levels in small as well as large enterprises.
There is a simple way to determine whether the noise level is dangerous to hearing or not. When a person has to shout to enable another person with normal hearing to hear his words one or two metres away, this usually means the noise level is about 85 dB. There are more elaborate ways of measuring and analysing noise by sound level metres, and these are usually needed for precise monitoring.
There are many low-cost ways of reducing heat or noise problems. Isolation of the sources of heat or noise can be universally applied. Workplaces should be spacious and, especially to reduce heat effects, have adequate windows or doors to allow for good air flow. Walls and roofs should not be made of materials which reflect noise or which are good conductors of solar heat. In other situations, we could use enclosure or insulation of heated machines or pipes or noisy machines. If heat radiation is great, for example from furnaces, workers can be shielded from it by a barrier or screen.
The heat or noise may sometimes still be excessive in spite of available measures. In this case, consideration should be given to drastic technical solutions, such as purchasing cooler or quieter machines or air-conditioning, or, as a last resort, providing protective clothing or ear muffs or plugs.
The following examples illustrate how enterprises have coped with severe heat or noise problems by making simple improvements in the environment. They show that such improvements in the physical environment need not always be expensive.
Case 45: Wider windows and ventilators
In a laundry section of a hotel in Bali, Indonesia, about 15 workers were working in hot and humid conditions. The lack of air movement was obviously aggravating the effects of heat. It was therefore decided to have new openings and windows and to install a few ventilators.
US$ 150 was spent on constructing new windows and openings as shown in figures 75 and 76, Another US$ 60 were spent on ventilators. The air movement improved greatly and the laundry room became cooler. This had a positive impact on the productivity of the workers. The lighting conditions of the room also improved.
Figure 75: High windows and a ventilator in a hotel laundry section.
Figure 76: Ventilation openings in a hotel laundry section.
In a factory producing bangles made of glass in Bangladesh, there were 18 workers in the finishing section. A small heater was used to temper bangles. The workers complained of excessive heat and burns occasionally caused due to handling the iron handles of the heater. The frequent turnover of workers in this section seemed related to the work strain.
A small electric fan was installed on the workroom wall. A wooden handle was fitted to the iron handle of the heater. It was also arranged to increase ventilation in the room by keeping windows and doors open. The improvements were done at low cost. The electrical fan cost US$ 43, the wooden handle US$ 1, and arrangements for cross ventilation about US$ 4. Though no records were available about the production or rejection of products, the management noted a significant reduction in rejected products.
Installation of a ventilator in a varnishing section of a furniture factory with 10 workers in the Philippines also proved useful for the reduction of the heat load of the workers at low cost. Although there were wide windows, the whole building was surrounded by high and thick walls which prevented the air from entering. The manager, after discussing the matter with a supervisor and the workers, installed a ventilator at an appropriate place. This cost US$ 140. Its life span was considered to be ten years or more. With the improved ventilation, the room became cooler. A worker could now varnish ten chairs a day, while before he could hardly varnish eight. The frequency of repeating the finishing touches on the furniture also was reduced.
Case 46: Barriers for thermal radiation
Thermal radiation from furnaces, molten metal and slag produced adverse effects on the workers of a flash smelting shop in Calcutta, India. Many of the 225 workers employed in the shop were exposed to high thermal radiation. The hot metal splashes and sparks also caused injury and fire hazards. The factory asked for advice about low-cost solutions.
An adjustable thermal radiation barrier and hinged covers for channels carrying molten slag seemed practical solutions. As polished aluminium thermal barriers were costly and required regular cleaning, two oxidised iron sheets of one metre by one metre each in size were used to form a thermal barrier, with a gap of 25 cm between them. The two sheets were fixed with iron rods at the four corners and at the middle. The thermal barrier was placed between the sources of high thermal radiation and the workers. The barrier was put on two low-cost stands with different points of suspension. The lower part of the barrier stand was kept open for the circulation of air between the sheets.
The covers over the channels for molten slag were fixed with hinges so that they could be raised when maintenance or cleaning of the channels was done.
Both the thermal barrier and the covers for the channels protected the workers from high thermal radiation. The sheet on the radiation side of the thermal barrier was very hot, but the sheet on the workers' side was much cooler. The difference between the temperature reading of a globe thermometer with and without the thermal barrier for an exposure period of one hour was about 40°C. The barrier as well as the channel covers acted as guards against splashes of metal, sparks, etc. The risk of accidents was greatly reduced.
The cost of the thermal barrier with the stands was estimated to be about US$ 40 and the cost for each cover for the slag channels was estimated to be US$ 15, including the labour cost. However, scrap materials and the spare time of a permanent employee were used. The maintenance cost was negligible.
Figure 77: Side view of an adjustable thermal barrier for portable use.
Figure 78: Front view of a portable heat barrier.
Figure 79: Covers over channels for molten slag. A globe thermometer measuring the heat radiation is seen.
Case 47: Use of longer tongs to reduce heat stress
A blacksmith shop in an engineering factory in Burma was using a forge hammer machine for production of square rods (dog spikes). The workers engaged in heating rod pieces near the machine complained of discomfort due to heat from the furnace. The production target of 2,000 hammered dog spikes per eight-hour shift could not be met.
Out of the five workers engaged in the process, only three were found to be close to the heat source. One of them had to put the rods into the furnace, while another picked the hot rods out of the furnace. This second worker was found to be suffering the most from the heat. The third worker who retrieved the dog spikes from the hammering machine to drop them into water for cooling was exposed in a limited manner. The radiant heat in the proximity of the furnace was 46°C. The tongs used by the two workers at the furnace were found to be 55 cm long. Work was interrupted repeatedly by demands for rest.
Figure 80: Furnace workers using short tongs. Putting a rod into the furnace.
The tongs were replaced by longer ones measuring 80 cm in order to move the worksite as far as possible from the furnace. The weight and the holding force of the tongs were considered carefully so as to avoid new problems. The radiant heat load measured at the work position was found to be 6°C less than in the previous work positions. The longer tongs were produced from ready stock in the factory and did not cost anything.
Parallel to this, a new work regimen was introduced for the heat-exposed work. Two more workers were added to the existing three, and three out of the five workers worked at a time while the other two rested in a cooler area in the shop. This was made possible by approximately US$ 50 per month, the current cost of employing two more persons. This led to an average increase of 60 per cent in the production, and the production target of 2,000 dog spikes per shift was achieved. There was consensus that thermal load was substantially reduced.
Figure 81: Short tongs previously used and long tongs used after the improvement.
Figure 82: A worker using longer tongs to take out a heated rod from the furnace.
Case 48: Insulation slab in front of furnace doors
The smith shop of a railway workshop in India employed 20 workers who were exposed to radiant heat emanating from furnaces. Some adverse effects were noted on the health and efficiency of these workers. At their place of work, the mean difference between readings of a thermometer and a dry bulb thermometer was as high as 46°C. These measurements proved that the workers were put under undue physiological stress due to excessive heat radiation. The workload as evaluated from the pulse rate and the sweating rate of the workers was categorised as heavy.
A 90 × 120 cm calcium silicate slab 50 mm thick was placed, as an insulation slab, at a fixed distance of 1.7 metres from the furnace doors. The slab served as a thermal barrier preventing heat radiation from the furnace doors from reaching the workers directly. There was remarkable relief in thermal strain. The pulse rate increase during work reduced by 40 to 70 per cent. The rate of perspiration also reduced by 20 to 30 per cent. The reduction in mean globe thermometer readings was from about 40 to 50 per cent.
The direct cost for fabrication of a set of a calcium silicate slab barriers with a frame was approximately US$ 180.
Case 49: Reducing heat stress by environmental improvements and protective clothing
In a small enterprise in Sri Lanka producing activated carbon, there were 12 workers employed in the kiln section. The process involved the burning of coconut shells and husks. The workers often complained of severe headache, a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and mouth, a hot feeling in the body, body aches and dryness of the skin. The kiln was made of cast iron and fired by diesel oil. There were openings at either end for loading and unloading.
The temperature was found to be often over 41°C, which was very hot, and humidity was also very high. Both ends of the kiln were so hot that the workers could not bear to be there for more than a few minutes at one time.
The problem was solved with a series of simple and inexpensive measures. The whole kiln was painted with white aluminium paint, which reduced the amount of radiant heat. A small wooden cubicle with tinted glass windows was constructed at a short distance from the kiln. The workers were told to stay in the cubicle except during the brief moments when they tended the kiln. In this way they avoided unnecessary heat exposure. When the workers tended the kiln, they wore aprons lined with aluminium foil on the outside and cotton on the inside. They also used tinted glass goggles. This insulated them from much of the heat. Drinking water containing some common salt was provided in the cubicle and the workers were encouraged to drink this frequently. This ensured that the workers had enough water and salt to replace that lost through perspiration. In addition, wire mesh was installed in the windows of the building in which the kiln was located. The windows could now be kept wide open the whole time, whereas previously they were kept closed for security reasons. This meant that general ventilation was improved.
All the above-mentioned environmental improvements led to a drop in the usual temperature around the kiln from over 41°C to about 36°C. The humidity was also reduced. The workers also complained less frequently of discomfort. By staying in the cubicle most of the time and using protective clothes when tending the kiln, they significantly eliminated the health hazard.
The direct cost of the improvements amounted to about US $400. The indirect costs, including the workers' time painting the kiln and building the cubicle, amounted to about US$ 80.
Case 50: Use of insulation material to dampen noise
In a small jewellery factory in Thailand, the noise produced by gem polishing machinery, which operated both day and night, was irritating and caused loss of sleep both for the workers who slept in a dormitory on the premises and for the residents living around the factory.
The gem polishing machinery consisted of a tumbler driven by an electric motor in which rough stones were placed with an abrasive mixture.
Casings for the tumblers were constructed from foam insulation material about 3 cm thick intended for refrigeration purposes and held in place by wire. Each casing cost about US$ 4. The cost of the time spent was minimal. Several trials had to be conducted to determine the thickness of foam required.
As a result, the noise level reduced substantially. The workers who slept in the dormitory reported that the noise was now tolerable. Although an increase in productivity was not measured, it could be surmised that workers were in a better state to work as they slept better.
While the improvement was inexpensive and easy to carry out, patience was needed, as the optimum thickness of insulation was found out only after several trials.
Case 51: Reducing noise by distance
In Sri Lanka, it was found that five power presses in a manufacturing enterprise produced noise levels of 102-104 dB(A). Even when only one or two presses were functioning, noise levels of up to 98 dB(A) were produced. This caused irritation to the workers and also the danger of noise-induced hearing loss.
To cope with this problem, the power presses were moved to a distance of 20 metres from the place where most of the workers were located. In this way, these workers were exposed to acceptable noise levels of 75-80 dB(A). Workers who operated the power presses were provided with ear muffs and rotated to a quieter section of the factory after a maximum of four hours continuous duty in the power press area.
This is an example of a low-cost solution to reduce noise to a safe and acceptable level simply by moving the noisy machines further away from most of the workers. The minority of workers who looked after those machines used ear protectors.
Case 52: Reducing noise by dampeners
In a factory in Thailand, plastic moulding machines produced excessive noise. In this case, noise dampeners were used to solve the problem. Shaped corks were fitted around escape valves from which most of the noise came (Figure 83). To protect the fragile corks, acrylic plastic caps were placed over them (Figure 84). These measures for each machine cost only a few US dollars but the noise levels reduced from more than 85 dB(A) to less than 60 dB(A).
In a small electronics factory in India, loud noise coming from a grinder was disturbing all the workers in the workroom. It was found that the direct mounting of the grinder on a wooden table made the noise much louder than expected. The grinder was without any cover for its power-transmission belt. Rubber dampeners were placed at the base of the grinder. The moving belt portion was covered with a metal cover which was also fixed using the rubber dampeners. The noise was greatly reduced and the workers could now communicate with ease while the grinder was in operation. The mounting of rubber dampeners, together with the belt cover, cost about US$ 18.
Figure 83: Cork silencers to reduce noise around escape valves.
Figure 84: Silencers with acrylic covers.
Case 53: An acoustic box functioning as a noise muffler
A compression process using an ultra-sonic engine was producing loud and sharp noise in a cassette tape recorder and radio factory in Indonesia. The compression process was necessary to fix glass to the main case plate of the front cover of each radio set. The workers manning this compression process were placed in a separate room so that the noise did not disturb other workers. The noise was as high as 105 to 107 dB(A) and thus a severe occupational hazard to the compression process workers, who carried out this process 500 times per work day.
An acoustic box was made using 16 mm particle board. The box was 96 cm long, 82 cm wide and 137 cm high. The inner part of the box was lined with noise-absorbing materials. Both the left and right sides of the box were furnished with a window and a door. The front part could be opened only when the compression process was finished. The ultra-sonic engine was put into the acoustic box.
Figure 85: An acoustic box encasing a noisy compression process. The inner part is lined with noise-absorbing materials.
The box was made by the company workers. The box materials cost US$ 70 for the particle board and US$ 48 for the acoustic materials.
The noise reduction was remarkable. With the box, the noise level fell to the range of 80 to 90 dB(A). The sound coming out of the box was no longer sharp. Other workers, when necessary, could work in the same room. The workers doing the compression process no longer felt isolated.
When hazardous substances are used in a manufacturing enterprise, they may be handled by a number of workers. The workers may have no idea of the nature of these substances or of the dangers they may present. Appropriate precautions must be taken during handling, use and storage of such substances.
Substances vary in their dangerous properties according to the chemical composition, physical state and the conditions under which they are handled, used or stored. There is no uniform system to take into account all these different conditions. Therefore it is essential that each operation considered hazardous should be conducted strictly in accordance with approved procedures. Only designated equipment should be used. Supervisors should specify operations which are considered hazardous and require monitoring by approved safety or other personnel.
The required procedures for preventing hazards from these substances must be applied on a regular basis. These procedures are not necessarily expensive. It is important to involve all the supervisors and workers concerned. For example, supervisors should ensure that hazardous operations are conducted only in designated areas and monitored for compliance with safety rules. Only essential personnel should be permitted during a specific operation. All designated areas should have suitable warnings. Open flames or unprotected electrical equipment should not be permitted in areas where flammable or explosive materials are present. Furthermore, escape routes, exits and stairways should be clearly marked, and emergency lighting provided.
In addition to the above-mentioned precautions, the use of dangerous materials often requires appropriate protective equipment and the provision of appropriate first-aid equipment. Proper maintenance of the equipment is important. Adequate and regular training of personnel on the use of such equipment and on actions to be taken in time of danger must be organised.
As for storage of hazardous materials, the responsibility should be entrusted to one or a few persons with adequate knowledge and competence. Deposits and withdrawals should be carefully and promptly filled in a register, and signed by the recipients. Whenever possible, hazardous raw materials should be kept locked away. Inventories should be conducted at regular intervals. Flammable or explosive substances should be kept away from open flames or excessive temperatures. In addition, all the materials should be properly labelled, describing their nature, with adequate warning signs. Such labels should be in the language understood by the workers.
Obviously, the more hazardous the substance, the greater the precautions to be taken. The examples which follow illustrate some of the precautions which are feasible for small enterprises. They show how the handling, use and storage of hazardous substances can be made safe and convenient.
Some of these examples show that it is better to enclose a hazardous process than to provide personal protective devices for workers. Personal protective devices, such as goggles, masks, aprons, gloves and boots, are often uncomfortable, especially in a tropical climate. As a result, workers tend not to use them. In addition, personal protective devices must fit everyone well to be effective.
It is important that the workers are carefully trained and the process continuously monitored for safety and efficiency. It is not sufficient to merely introduce an improvement. It must work in the long term and workers have to be thoroughly trained. Finally, most of these examples clearly show that productivity and safety often go together.
Case 54: Prevention of chemicals spillage using container holders
In a toy factory in Singapore, spillage of chemicals was a frequent occurrence. Some of these chemicals were irritating to the skin and eyes. The spillages occurred mainly because the containers were not secured to the tops of the work tables. When the worker got up or sat down, he sometimes knocked against the table, and tipped over the container.
The problem was solved by using a glass container with a magnet at the bottom. The container was placed over a slab of heavy and thick steel. This measure avoided tipping over of the container even if the worktable was shaken.
Each glass bottle and magnet cost less than US$ 5. The metal slabs cost nothing, as they were made from the waste materials in the company itself.
The results were gratifying, as no chemical spillages have occurred since the introduction of this simple innovation.
Figure 86: The bottom of a glass container holder. The magnet in the bottom is placed over a steel slab.
Figure 87: A chemical container placed in a holder.
Case 55: Dust suppression by water sprinkling
In a rock crushing enterprise in Sri Lanka which employed 25 workers, there were frequent complaints of difficulty in breathing and eye irritation from the dust. A piping extension from the main water supply was installed to sprinkle water during the crushing process. Complaints from workers were reduced and morale improved as workers were no longer covered with dust.
It should be noted in this instance that the measure was introduced largely because of the complaints of discomfort by the workers. The usual dust from rock crushing has a high silica content, which can give lead to a severe lung disease called silicosis. The reduction of dust by the sprinkling of water was therefore helpful, both in reducing the discomfort of workers and a serious threat to their health at the same time.
Case 56: Suppression of tapioca dust by using a funnel
In a packing plant in Thailand, tapioca powder is re-packed from large sacks into smaller packets for retail sales. During this process, the workers breathed in large amounts of tapioca dust and experienced congestion of the chest and difficulty in breathing. Face masks were provided but the workers did not like using them in the hot, humid conditions of the factory.
Gunny sacks, which are very commonly used in tropical countries, were stitched together to form a funnel for pouring the powder from the large to the small containers. To maintain the quality of newly-packed tapioca flour, fresh gunny sacks were used for this purpose every day.
Figure 88: A funnel to suppress tapioca dust.
There were no further complaints by the workers, as the amount of dust was greatly reduced by this method. There was virtually no cost, as the gunny sacks were available free of charge. Labour for sewing might cost US$ 1 per day.
Case 57: Improved hoods for coal smoke
Workers in a blacksmith shop of a large engineering factory in Burma were exposed to smoke from furnaces. They complained of discomfort due to breathing the smoke. There was a hood over each of the furnaces, but apparently the shape and position of these hoods were inadequate and allowed much of the smoke to escape.
Figure 89: One of the old hoods leading to a chimney over a small coal furnace.
After examining the design of the existing hoods, the normal work position of the workers and the air flow through the chimneys, it was decided to replace the hoods by a better design with a larger volume. A somewhat better hood at the joint with the chimney was also found to be defective, and allowed the smoke to pass through the breathing space of workers. The height of the lower tip of the new hoods was fixed at 60 cm from the furnace tables which were set at 65 cm from the ground. These heights were found suitable for the type of work done. The furnace table was extended to the front by about 30 cm.
Figure 90: A somewhat improved hood still found defective.
Approximately US$ 13 was spent per hood for the material. The labour cost was not estimated as the factory staff were engaged in producing improved designs. Using the new hoods, the coal smoke did not escape from the canopy under normal circumstances.
Figure 91: The improved hood with larger volume, positioned so that the worker can keep away from the smoke.
Case 58: Prevention of acid burns by enclosure
In a small factory making electrical components in the Philippines, copper materials were dipped in a bath of strong acid. Workers wearing face masks had to dip wire cages filled with copper materials into the bath. The work area of this section was about 20 square metres. It was decided to improve productivity by speeding up the process. At the same time, measures were taken to increase safety during the operation.
Figure 92: A worker dipping the wire cage containing copper components into the open acid bath.
The plant manager engaged a consultancy institute, which constructed an enclosure for the acid bath. This enclosure had glass windows to enable the worker to see the process. The workers were all trained in operating the chamber. For the next three months, the chamber operation was monitored daily for effectiveness and safety.
Figure 93: Enclosed acid bath with operation from behind the glass window.
This new method increased productivity by 53 per cent because the six stations of the chamber allowed six batches of parts to be treated simultaneously instead of one by one, as done previously. Moreover, the workers were no longer exposed to the hazards of acid fumes and burns. Fatigue was reduced as the lifting, dipping and hauling up of the wire cages were all done mechanically and not manually as before. Better industrial relations resulted as the workers appreciated the improvements.
About US$ 350 were spent to construct the steel chamber, including the exhaust fans and other mechanical parts. The design and installation were done by the engineering department of the company while the consultancy service was provided free of charge. The training cost consisted of an hour's pay (US$ 0.80) for each of the workers trained, since one hour was sufficient for the training. The recurrent cost for the upkeep of the chamber was estimated at US$ 100 per year.
Savings were considerable, namely, the cost of medical treatment (including hospital charges) for workers who suffered acid burns from the previous process. The 53 per cent increase in productivity also presented significant savings.
Where there is danger from machinery operations, it is not desirable, nor wise, to rely solely upon safe working practices, essential though these are. Guards and other safety devices are useful as ultimate barriers to prevent injury when other precautions fail. Operation of a machine can only be efficient if there is no inherent danger.
An effective way of preventing injuries caused by machinery is to prevent the worker from coming into direct contact with the dangerous machine components, such as moving parts or high voltage wires. These dangerous parts should be guarded or protected in such a way as to prevent dangerous access at all times.
There are different kinds of guards. Fixed guards are set up around various dangerous parts such as rotating shafts, belts or drums, nips at ingathering rotating parts, projections, other moving parts of machinery, fast running or hot surfaces, etc. If frequent access to the area protected by a guard for changing parts or cleaning is necessary, interlocked guards can be applied. An interlocked guard prevents direct contact with danger as it must be back in position before the machine can be restarted. Automatic guards are also useful. One type of automatic guard pushes or pulls any part of a person away from the danger zone when necessary, for example, when working with cutting machines or presses. Another type of automatic guard uses a light beam which scans the danger area and falls on a photo-electric cell which is connected to a stop switch. When any part of a person comes within the area, the dangerous machine motion is stopped by a switch connected to the cell.
Automatic guards also include an automatically operated sliding screen which provides a temporary barrier between an operator loading a workpiece and the danger area. The screen rises to permit the working hands to enter and then prevents access to the danger area when the dangerous part of the machine is in operation.
Trip guards commonly include a trip bar or screen set to operate at a predetermined pressure which, when exceeded, causes the machines to stop with the assistance of braking devices when necessary. Two-handed controls require an operator to apply both hands to the controls in order to activate them. Such controls, however, should not be used as the sole means of protection when guarding is possible.
Other devices to improve safety include enclosure of dangerous machines or isolating them from workers. Finally, fail-safe arrangements are necessary, since equipment failures will be almost bound to occur. These failures produce a high percentage of accidents. Fail-safe arrangements are used to ensure that the occurrence of a failure will leave the system unaffected or convert it into a state in which no injury or damage can result. As example of fail-safe devices is the circuit-breaker which operates when an electrical system is overloaded. The circuit-breaker stops the system and prevents an electrical short-circuit.
It may be noted that mechanical guards and other safety devices can be extremely complex and expensive. However, simple and inexpensive devices can also be used to improve safety or sometimes productivity as seen in the following examples.
As a note of caution, it should be emphasised that in all cases of doubt, expert opinion should be sought. A faulty safety device is often worse than no device at all. It might merely lead to a false sense of security and thereby increase the risk of accidents.
Case 59: Low-cost machine guards
In Sri Lanka, there were 25 workers in a rice milling plant. Several incidences of crushed limbs occurred, including fatal and severe accidents. The owner was very concerned but unable to afford the standard wiremesh guards.
The Government sent a factory inspector to look into the situation. It was recommended that all the moving parts of the machinery - the electric motor, transmission belt and pulley, and the fan - should be fenced with narrow wooden strips firmly fixed into the floor. It is a basic and fundamental need to protect all moving parts of machines. Care was taken to ensure that the spaces between each wooden strip were narrow enough to prevent the limbs of workers from coming into contact with the moving parts of the machine.
The wooden guards were found to be effective in preventing injuries. The costs of the guards were not given but estimated to be low. The costs saved included the approximate sum of US$ 100 per year for compensation and accident leave before the improvement was made. The indirect benefit from better morale could not be shown in exact figures but it was found that profit increased by 20 per cent.
In this case, the small-scale enterprise Could not afford metal mesh and was satisfied with a much cheaper material, or wood. It must be pointed out that metal mesh is still more dependable and reliable than wood when used for machine guarding. Mesh is much finer and its effective lifetime is longer. More frequent replacements are therefore necessary for wood than wire mesh. It must be stressed that prompt replacement or repair of guards is always necessary to prevent accidents occurring as a consequence of inadequate or faulty guards.
Case 60: A guard for falling objects
In a granite quarry in Thailand, five workers manned the grinding section. The stones were taken by a trolley to an overhead platform where a workman dumped them onto a moving screen which allowed only granite pieces below a certain diameter to pass through. The workers at the second, lower level platform were frequently injured by falling stones which had missed the screen and fallen onto the passage and work-way.
The supervisor arranged for the construction of a metal apron attached to the screen to catch the falling stones. This was constructed by the workshop of the enterprise itself. As a result, there were no more accidents caused by falling stones.
The improvement cost about US$ 215 for material and four man-days, or US$ 24, for labour. The losses before the improvement amounted to about two man-days, or about US$ 10, per month due to injury leave and US$ 3 per month for first aid.
This case is instructive for several reasons. The injuries before the improvement was made were fortunately not severe. However, the situation was rightly assessed to be very dangerous, as serious injuries or severe fatalities could occur if no improvements were made. The solution was thought out and implemented by the enterprise itself. Costs were therefore relatively minor but the effect was gratifying. It should be pointed out that the solution employed was far more effective than the provision of safety helmets alone, although these should also be used as a supplementary measure.
Case 61: Prevention of foot injuries by trolleys
In a manufacturing plant in Singapore, workers suffered injuries when trolleys used for transporting heavy loads rolled over their toes.
After several unsuccessful attempts at solutions, the safety officer of the enterprise devised a guard for the trolley wheels. It was made of metal, rectangular in shape and fixed to the wheel in such a way that the wheels could still move freely. The outside of the guard was padded with rubber. Now the wheels of the trolley would not roll over the workers' toes, and would be pushed away by the padded guard.
Since the installation of the guards, no foot injury has occurred in the factory. The wheel guards were made and installed by the workers themselves and cost only US$ 1.50 each. The exact costs from the injuries, including medical expenses and loss of productivity, were not given but said to have been considerable.
Foot injuries from trolleys are quite common. In many developing countries, workers often go around barefoot or in sandals, which make them even more vulnerable to such foot injuries. In this case, apart from the installation of trolley guards, workers should also be protected by the use of proper footwear. For handling heavy loads, safety shoes or boots are essential to prevent foot injuries.
Figure 94: Guard preventing contact between the wheel and the workers' foot.
Case 62: A shield for face protection
In a radio manufacturing plant in Indonesia, several workers were engaged in cutting off component legs under particle circuit boards. The cutting process was done in a dark box, but the fragments cut off the boards could easily fly out and injure the workers' eyes.
A box furnished with a glass plate and a fluorescent lamp was made using plywood boards. The box was 48 cm high. After some trials, the glass plate was installed parallel to the workers' eyes. All the fragments from the cutting process now fell back into the box. A box was made for each worker doing cutting work. The workers were pleased because their eyes were protected and they could see the process more clearly with the help of the lamp. The provision of the boxes also helped keep the workplace clean.
The materials cost US$ 6.50 per box including plywood boards, a fluorescent lamp and a glass plate.
Figure 95: Cutting off component legs under a particle circuit board.
In the grinding and polishing section of a large jewellery factory in Thailand, bits of metal tended to fly off the grinding wheels, thereby causing a hazard to the face and eyes of the workers. The factory employed 120 workers, 30 of whom were engaged in polishing, buffing and grinding.
A sheet of thick glass was inserted in front of each grinding wheel. It was fixed to the wheel with a hinge so as to facilitate cleaning and adjustment to the grinding wheel. The result was totally effective, as no eye or facial injuries occurred thereafter. The cost of the glass was minimal and the cost of labour nil, as the installation was done by the artisans of the factory.
Figure 96: A protective box with a glass plate and a lamp for cutting work.
Eye or facial injuries from flying objects are frequent and can be serious. Many cases of blindness have occurred as a result. Yet prevention of such injuries is often simple and inexpensive, as shown by these examples. The glass should be cleaned regularly or replaced if necessary. A dirty or excessively scratched glass can hamper visibility and workers may be tempted to remove the guard, thereby endangering themselves. In addition, it should be emphasised that safety screens of ordinary glass are only effective against small flying objects. They should not be used against heavy flying objects or small objects ejected at high velocity. Goggles or other forms of eye protection may also be required in addition to glass screens.
Case 63: A glass window guard against flying particles
Women workers in a polishing section of a wholesale jewellery house in Thailand were at times exposed to particles from small grinding machines flying into their face and eyes. About ten workers were engaged in the section. Goggles did not seem effective as the workers tended to take them away during polishing work. All the grinding machines were positioned as to revolve in the downward direction. It was necessary to set up a permanent face guard to prevent possible injuries.
Two wooden cabinets were built around a series of grinding machines so that the polishing work could be done by looking through a glass window. Each cabinet covered four workstations. Each window was made so that the worker could easily see the items to be polished and the movements of the hands inserted underneath the window were not disturbed. All the windows could be easily opened in the case of maintenance work in the grinding machines.
Figure 97: A wooden cabinet with windows to protect against flying particles from grinders.
The manufacture of the two cabinets was contracted with a small shop. The cost for covering the eight workstations in two lines was US$ 145. The work was done during a weekend break.
After the installations of the cabinets, no facial or eye injuries occurred. This allowed the company to save medical expenses which were estimated to be US$ 75 a year. Though not measurable in monetary terms, costs could also be saved by eliminating lost time due to these injuries or other difficulties such as delay in jewellery delivery or turnover of the workers.
Case 64: Wire mesh and metal sheet guards against metal chips
In an enamelware manufacturing factory in Burma, there was a need to safeguard beading machine operators and others around them. They were endangered by metal chips flying out of the machines. The safety committee looked into the matter. Each beading machine was run by a 1.5 horse power motor and worked on the general principles of a simple lathe. While a workpiece mounted on the head stock revolved, the edge would be cut and the rim rounded simultaneously. When the edges of the pressed metalware were cut off, some chips would fly a distance of up to about 5 metres away from the machine on the opposite side of the operator. On some occasions when the operator handled the slide, chips would even fly towards him.
Figure 98: The beading machine without guards.
There were six such machines, installed in two rows six metres apart. Between the two rows of machines at just about the middle, a wire mesh partition was built. Then a wire mesh shield was erected on the vertical plane just above the machine at a height of 90 cm, with a small opening just above the joint of operation. The top side was also covered by wire mesh. A piece of sheet metal, cut and shaped as half of a square metal container cut diagonally across, was fitted onto the machine just beyond the cutting point and very close to it. These guards proved suitable. The flying chips were caught by the wire mesh partitions.
Figure 99: An operator working on the machine with a mesh guard erected in front.
The square mesh partitions with wooden frames for each machine cost about US$ 48. The labour cost was not added as they were made by the factory staff. The small guard on each machine cost only US$ 10. The wire mesh partition near the wall in front of the machines cost US$ 70.
Figure 100: The operator working with a sheet metal guard on the machine.
Case 65: Prevention of arm laceration
In a small plastic moulding factory in Singapore, five cases of severe laceration on the forearms of workers were reported within a period of a few months. The workers were all engaged in trimming the plastic products with a small knife. Sometimes the knife would slip and wound the workers.
The safety officer in the factory investigated the problem. He contacted a company which made rattan products. He arranged for a supply of rattan meshing which was wrapped around the forearms of workers and kept firmly in place by rubber garters. Several trials were conducted to ascertain the optimum length and breadth of the meshing needed. The meshing was found to be effective in preventing arm lacerations.
Figure 101: Rattan mesh and knife used in trimming plastic products.
The rattan meshing for each worker cost US$ 7.50. Recurrent costs for replacement of worn-out meshing could not be calculated as the period of observation was still too short for this purpose. However, such recurrent costs were estimated to be quite small.
Savings in terms of prevention of injury and medical expenses far exceeded the costs incurred. Moreover, the productivity of the workers was enhanced because they could work faster now that the fear of sustaining lacerations was removed. This case is a good example of a working procedure being made more safe by a low-cost guard improvised by the factory itself and using material readily available locally.
Figure 102: Trimming operation in progress.
Figure 103: The rattan meshing now prevents lacerations to the forearm.
Case 66: Welding partitions
Workers of a metal fabrication factory in the Philippines were often disturbed by glare from several welders at work. There were about 60 workers with at least three welders operating simultaneously. The house-keeping conditions of the factory were poor and the welding took place at different parts of the fabrication area of about 800 square metres depending on the situation. The glare from welding caused distractions and inconvenience to non-welders working in the area.
To reduce the glare caused by welding, the owner decided to designate a particular section of the work area as a welding place and to provide partitions around it. He surveyed his factory for light and portable materials that could be used to shield the glare. Available scrap aluminium braces and leftover plywood were given to two workers to make into partitions. A total of six partitions were made.
The owner provided the welders with these partitions and instructed them to use these to contain glare from welding work. The welders readily preferred to work within the confines of these partitions. In fact, according to the owner, they competed for the use of partitions. The non-welders said that there was no more distraction caused by the direct glare from welding work.
The cost for making six partitions included about US$ 40 for scrap aluminium and plywood and about US $15 for four working days (two workers spending two days each for making the partitions). The approximate cost per partition was about US$ 9. Compared with the cost incurred, the advantage of the use of these partitions was remarkable. Though accurate comparison was not readily available, the owner was expecting enhanced productivity and fewers errors by workers formerly affected by the glare.
Case 67: Two-hand device for a foot-operated power press
In a small metalworking factory in Thailand, there were several hand injuries caused by a power press. The power press was being used by workers of a metal cutting unit. The maintenance staff of the factory studied the possibility of incorporating a safety device into the foot-operated power press. It was decided to introduce a two-hand control system in place of a foot lever. The system would require the worker to put both hands simultaneously on two buttons in order to activate the press. It would prevent any hand from coming into contact with the dangerous part in motion.
A design was drawn up by the maintenance department. A small pneumatic cylinder was put on top of the foot lever of the press, connected to a switch and a compressed air system, and the switch was linked to an electric power line which had a two-hand control switch installed on the front side of the power press. All the work was done by maintenance workers.
The cost of refitting the two-hand control system on the press was approximately US$ 55, not inclusive of labour costs.
All workers were trained on safe press operation. The incidence of hand injuries dropped significantly.
Figure 104: A pneumatic cylinder connected to a two-hand switch to control a power press.
Figure 105: Feeding materials into the power press.
Figure 106: Two-hand control to ensure that the hands are away from the danger zone.
Case 68: Protective handrails near steam vats
In a plywood factory in Burma, round logs were placed into steam vats and steamed for a period of three to five days. While placing logs into the vats and taking them out, the workers faced the risk of getting splashed by hot water at about 90°C and of slipping and falling into the vats. The workers also complained of the narrow foot space on the edges of the tanks.
After studying the work process at the steam vats, portable handrails were manufactured. At the same time, the wooden covers for the vats were replaced. Work at the vats was arranged so that when work was done at a particular vat, the vat adjacent to it would be covered. Instead of working on the edges of the vats, the workers would be stationed by the cover placed over the adjacent vat with a handrail fitted in front for protection. The overhead crane clearance at these workplaces was readjusted to ensure safe clearance for crane movement during work.
Construction of a wooden cover and handrails for a medium-size vat cost approximately US$ 240 including labour costs of US$ 32 for a carpenter. The cost for a cover and handrails for a large-size vat was US$ 470 including labour costs of about US$ 170. Second class teak, brackets and iron-ring fasteners were used.
Figure 107: Workers working at the vats without protective guards.
The work at the hot vats became safe. For a period of two years after these modifications, not a single case of splash burns or falling into the vats occurred.
Figure 108: Working at the vats with protective handrails.
It is far better to make a work process intrinsically safe by eliminating all potential dangers. But it must also be emphasised that safe working procedures are essential in any situation. Safe procedures should start with equipment selection and plant design. Work methods should be planned so that workers can do their work properly and safely following the prescribed procedures.
Safe working procedures go together with various other measures to create a safe working environment. They should be laid down by each enterprise and regarded as codes of conduct to avoid injury and damage. They should be applied to each work area, work method and each category of worker in the enterprise. Obviously, it is not enough to lay down procedures. They must also be properly applied. New workers should be trained in safe working procedures. This could be done either by the safety officer or line supervisor or preferably both.
There should also be regular retraining in safe working procedures. The frequency and nature of such retraining depends on the circumstances in the particular enterprise.
Whenever possible, safety committees should be established within each enterprise. They should be made up of managers, supervisors and workers, together with the safety officer (if there is one). The committees should initiate and monitor safety promotion programmes and suggest ways of preventing accidents. All new materials and processes should be reported to and assessed by the safety committee concerning potential hazards and safe working procedures.
Equipment and training concerning first aid and fire safety is usually required by law. However, it is often possible to meet or go beyond these legal requirements at low cost.
Often, changes in environmental conditions or work methods can help workers observe the safety procedures more consistently. It sometimes happens that despite repeated instructions, it is difficult for workers to observe these instructions all the time. Modifications such as elimination of certain hazards by slight changes in the workplace environment or making work methods easier to follow can help the workers observe the safety procedures. Together with a well-planned programme of safety education, these small changes can contribute to enhancing safety at work.
The examples below give an idea of how safe working procedures are planned and implemented, often at low cost. It should be kept in mind that safe working procedures vary a great deal from enterprise to enterprise. Each enterprise needs to make its own assessment of what procedures are necessary for its own set of circumstances.
Case 69: Improvement in safety through low-cost mechanisation
In the upholstery section of a furniture-making factory in the Philippines, workers used the conventional method of tucking upholstery materials with a hammer and nails. Hand injuries due to the accidental slipping of the hammer occurred. The fear of such injuries also slowed down the work. The upholstery section employed five workers.
Figure 109: The old method of using a hammer to drive in the nails manually.
To overcome the problem, compressed air guns were installed and substituted for the hammers. The workers were given careful instructions on how to use their air guns. Employees were enthusiastic about the change, as it reduced both their physical effort and increased safety. There was an increase of 30-40 per cent in output.
The air compressor cost about US$ 1,000 and the fittings, hand tools and installation about US$ 500. At the same time, the compressor also served the needs of another section of the factory. Maintenance and electricity costs were estimated at around US$ 5 per month.
The 30-40 per cent increase in productivity was partly used to pay for an increase in wages.
This is an example of how low-cost mechanisation improved both safety and productivity. It must be emphasised that the use of the compressed air gun is not entirely free of danger. The mechanical tool must also be handled with care, but is more convenient to use than the hammer.
Figure 110: The new method using the compressed air gun.
Case 70: Tilting a saw frame for safer use
In a section of a wood furniture factory in Malaysia, about five workers operated radial-arm saws. The rotating saw blade was a constant threat to the safety of these workers. Accidents had occurred in which the operator's hand was severed by the rotating blade. After planks were placed on the feed table, the radial-arm saw was pulled forward by the operator towards himself. While being pulled forward, the saw cut the planks. The saw was left at the forward position when the cutting was over and the operator turned around to collect some more planks.
Many accidents happened when the operator turned around again to place the planks for the next cut, not realising that the saw-head was still in contact with the revolving blade. Although the saw was provided with a counterweight or springs for the automatic return of the worktable, some workers found the counterweight unsatisfactory and heavy and also the tension in the springs too high. Extra force was required to pull the saw forward. Thus, the counterweight or the springs were often removed or rendered inoperative.
Instead of providing the saw with a counterweight or springs, the front legs of the saw table were raised slightly so that the saw frame was tilted backward. This tilting caused the saw to return to its starting position by its own weight and inertia due to the rotating action. Thus, the danger of the rotating saw blade at the front end of the worktable was eliminated.
Figure 111: Tilting the saw frame for automatic return of the saw.
The cost of inclining the saw frame was negligible as only a small amount of concrete was necessary. It helped save the further cost of counterweights or springs. The new arrangement was found to be successful in returning the saw to its original starting position. The operators were satisfied with this simple modification. After the change, there were no reports of accidents involving the operators of the saw.
Case 71: Prevention of finger injuries by mechanised riveting
The riveting section of an electrical component manufacturing company in the Philippines employed four workers. Their work was essentially to join a copper fuse holder to its plastic base. To do this the worker placed the base on a stand and then knocked the fuse holder into place with a hammer. There were instances in which workers hurt their fingers with the hammer.
Figure 112: Knocking fuse holders into a plastic base with a hammer.
The engineering department of the enterprise designed a twin-feed riveting machine. Using this, the operator could set up as many as 20 plastic bases, two at a time, in a stand. He then activated the pneumatic-driven riveting machine which knocked the fuse into its plastic base. At first only one of the four workers used the new system while the other three continued using the hammer.
Figure 113: Use of a riveting machine instead of a hammer.
Output increased by 15 per cent using the riveting machine. Moreover, the worker using the riveting machine did not sustain any injury, whereas the other three workers reported hurting themselves with the hammer at least once a day.
The cost of parts to construct the machine was about US$ 2,000. Training of the workers on the machine required overtime payment estimated at US$ 9. Average maintenance costs were estimated to be US$ 150. The direct savings were about US$ 100 per month overtime pay and the loss of productivity due to work injuries, both resulting from using the manual process.
This is another example of how the mechanisation of a procedure led to greater efficiency and safety. Again, it should be pointed out that a riveting machine is not devoid of danger. However, if the controls are properly designed and located, the risk of accident should be lower than that from a manual method using a hammer.
Case 72: A hazard overcome by safe working procedures
A Singapore factory manufacturing metal components had several power presses. Machine guards activated by electronic sensors were installed. Even then, several finger injuries occurred because the workers found ways to bypass these safety measures by tampering with them to speed up production or for other reasons.
The safety officer launched a carefully-planned programme of safety education. At first, clear safety instructions in both English and Chinese (as every worker knew at least one of the two languages) were put on the machines. All the existing operators were then required to undergo an intensive training of one week on the proper and safe use of the presses. They were only allowed to resume work on the machines if they passed a test conducted either by the section head or the safety officer.
Only workers with several years of experience in the company were selected as new operators for the power presses. New workers would start off in other safer sections of the enterprise first. In this way, most of the power press operators had at least five years of service in the company. This ensured that only workers known for their sense of responsibility and safety consciousness were allowed to work on the power presses, which was an attractive job because of higher emoluments.
Since the implementation of these safe handling procedures some time ago, no accident from power presses has occurred in the factory.
The costs involved were minimal. The costs for the training programme involved mainly the time spent by trainers and trainees. The installation of the safety guards and sensors cost about US$ 50 per press. Maintenance and other costs were minimal.
It is important to install machine guards whenever necessary, but unfortunately almost all kinds of guards can be tampered with, as in this case. It is therefore essential to adopt safe working procedures as well. Not only were the dangers and use of safety measures fully explained to all the workers, an elaborate programme of training in safe working procedures was also carried out. The selection of only experienced workers to man the presses must have also contributed to the improvement of safety. Another point to note is that information and educational programmes may need to be given in more than one language, as in this case.
Case 73: A mechanical interlock to eliminate an electrical hazard
Machines used for the manufacture of barbed wire in an engineering factory in Burma presented a particular risk, because the method used required the operator to come very close to the revolving frame underneath the machine several times in every shift. Though the machines were switched off during such operations, electrical faults or interference with the switch might start the machines and cause severe injuries. A fatal accident occurred on one of the machines in this manner.
Figure 114: Operation often done underneath the barbed wire machine.
Immediately after the fatal accident, the safety committee and the engineers concerned shut down all the seven machines and carried out investigations. As a result, it was suggested that suitable interlocking devices be used. These devices would lock the electrical system when workers were required to work underneath the machines. During normal operations, the revolving part of each machine would be covered by a sheet of metal which was hinged on the lower frame of the machine. This cover was to protect the workers during normal operations and had to be opened when the work was done underneath the machine. This opening of the cover was used for the interlock. A limit switch was fitted on the frame of each machine to cut the electricity supply to the revolving frame when the cover was opened.
Figure 115: The limit switch put to on position by an extension strip on the metal cover.
Figure 116: The limit switch in off position when the cover is down.
Additional measures were also taken to prevent any possible faults. The wiring of the machine on which the fatal accident occurred was changed. The control buttons of each machine were cleaned and the workers were advised to always keep them clean and to touch them with clean fingers. The newly wired system and the operation of the limit switches were thoroughly tested.
The cost of procuring a limit switch and a short length of electric wire was US$ 15 per machine. There was no cost for labour as the technical staff of the factory carried out the modifications. Thanks to these new interlocking devices, there was little chance of a similar accident.
Case 74: Prevention of an electrical hazard by main switch locking
A plywood production plant in Thailand used several machines run on electricity. Because the machines were acquired secondhand, they required frequent alterations and repairs. The machines were arranged along a long production line. Workers repairing or inspecting individual machines could not always be seen from the place where the main switch was located. Injuries had resulted because the main switch was started when workers were still working on the machines.
It was decided that a way must be found to seal off the main switch while the line was under inspection or repair so that the power could not be accidentally started until all maintenance or repairs had been completed.
The switch for the machines was a common knife switch, in which all the knife blades had to be thrown up to complete the circuit and start the machinery. A bracket was attached below the knife switch. From this bracket a non-conducting chain made of strong plastic was attached around the switch while in the off position and locked to the bracket. The bracket was made in such a way as to accommodate a series of padlocks along the length of the chain. Once any of the locks was placed in position on the chain, the switch could not be moved to the on position.
Each supervisor or member of the work crew was given a personal lock for the chain. They were instructed not to touch the machine until the master switch was switched off and they had fastened a lock onto the chain. Later on, a large box was constructed over the master switch. This contained six locks which could be used to shut down the electrical power until any maintenance or repair work was completed.
This new arrangement effectively prevented injuries from accidental switching on of machinery during inspections or repairs. The bracket, chain and locks cost less than US$ 10 in total. It was difficult to compute accurately the costs saved in the prevention of injuries, but undoubtedly safety was improved significantly.
Case 75: Improving electrical wiring
In an engineering factory with 40-50 workers in Pakistan, there were frequent incidences of short-circuiting which damaged electrical equipment. In certain cases, workers received an electrical shock. It was found that damage caused by defective electricity installations amounted to about US$ 190, and that about US$ 100 had been spent for the treatment and transportation of injured workers.
A short training session was organised to educate the workers on electrical hazards and protection against such hazards. Then, the workers participated in the replacement of old unsafe wiring, insulation of wires and provision of good quality switches, plugs and sockets.
Figure 117: New wiring arrangement with insulated wires.
The approximate cost for changing the wiring was US$ 156. In addition, US$ 32 were paid to the external instructor who lectured at the training session. An example of the new wiring arrangement is given below.
The change of the wiring systems gave a new look to the workplace, with orderly arranged or insulated wires and safe electrical connections. The change contributed to the reduction of electrical hazards. Damage to the electrical equipment was reduced to a minimum. The manager of the factory noted that the new arrangement helped increase the safety awareness of the workers and had a positive impact on work efficiency.
Case 76: Warning about the movement of a mechanical lift
In the finishing section of a printing plant in the Philippines, materials and products were transported to and from the upper floor by a mechanical lift. The plant employed 150 workers and had three sections, a photo-lithography section, an offset press section and a finishing section. A die-cutting machine which was frequently used was located in the finishing section.
The manager observed the operations in the finishing area and found that the accidental activation of the lift switch on the upper floor might lead to serious injury of a worker on the ground floor who was unaware of the lift movement. When he consulted the workers, the majority confirmed this. After discussions, it was decided to install a signal light and a bell to warn workers on the ground floor as soon as the mechanical lift was activated.
A red signal light and a bell assembly were purchased and installed near the ground floor end of the light. The workers were taught how to use the warning device and given written instructions on the operation of the lift. The warning signal worked quite effectively. The likelihood of accidents was reduced considerably. The workers were able to work and move freely and easily without fear that they might be accidentally hit by the moving lift.
The plant cost incurred was minimal. The red signal light and the bell assembly cost about US$ 20. The cost of labour for installation was US$ 4. In all, the management spent US$ 24 for the improvement.
Figure 118: A red signal light and instructions on how to use the lift.
Figure 119: A bell alarm to warn workers of the movement of the lift.
Case 77: Modifications in the use of a portable stand
In an aluminium extrusion plant in Indonesia, an accident involving a die-polishing worker occurred. His hand was cut by a sharp object on a portable stand where he placed dies. The safety committee immediately studied the problem. It was found that the stand was unstable, neither bolted to the floor nor made to balance the weight of dies, and that the safety guard around the top of the stand was crudely made. This guard actually injured the hand of the worker.
The stand was modified so as to meet safety requirements. It was made stable. The safety guard around the top of the stand was also modified to eliminate sharp edges and obstruction of the movements of the worker's hands. The cost of the modification, including materials and work, was about US$ 25.
Case 78: Provision of first-aid facilities
About 100 workers of an engineering factory in Sri Lanka had to leave the worksite to seek treatment at government clinics or from private medical practitioners even for relatively minor injuries. These medical facilities were located some distance away. Some injured workers did not get their wounds attended to. Consequently, some developed infected wounds which prolonged their period of incapacity. At the worksite itself, there was a first-aid box but no person to treat or dress the wounds.
After consulting the factory inspectorate, the management provided a small room of 4.5 by 3.6 metres. It was cleaned, whitewashed and painted. A wash-basin with running water was installed. The room was furnished with a desk, three chairs, a foot stool and a medical examination couch. Towels, bed sheets, pillows and pillow cases were purchased.
Two workers were selected on the basis of their helpful and friendly disposition and willingness to undergo training in first aid. They were sent at the expense of the company to attend a first-aid course comprising ten lectures and ten practical sessions. After completion of the course, they resumed their normal duties but also rendered first aid whenever injuries occurred.
Accident leave was reduced by 30 per cent during the months after the implementation of the first-aid programme. The workers were also spared considerable inconvenience as they did not need to travel to an outside clinic or to wait to get their dressings done. Moreover, the incidence of infected wounds also fell.
The cost of preparing and equipping the first-aid room came to about US$ 240. The cost of training the two workers in first aid, including travel costs, amounted to US$ 16. The indirect costs, including the time spent in training away from normal duties and that in first-aid duty by the two first aiders were not more than US$ 40 for the whole year. The total costs were therefore about US$ 300.
The management estimated that the 30 per cent reduction in accident leave, savings in productivity, and the evident increase in the morale and extent of co-operation by workers, more than recovered the expenses incurred.
Case 79: Provision of a first-aid room
In a battery factory in Burma, 325 workers were engaged in manufacturing sulphuric acid and batteries. The existing first-aid facilities were found inadequate by the safety and health committee as only a nominal amount of first-aid materials were being kept in a small place adjacent to the time-keeper's office. Only a few workers had been trained as first-aiders. The records showed that in the previous year, there were about 160 cases handled by the first-aiders, of which 15 were referred to a hospital.
The management agreed to provide a room in the factory premises for use as a first-aid room. An amount of approximately US$ 375 was provided for buying and replenishing first-aid materials. Fifteen workers were trained as first-aiders. Five first-aid boxes were placed in major sections of the factory. Plenty of water was made available near the workers working with acid. Arrangements were made with a local health officer who undertook the supervision of the first-aid operations. A trained first-aid nurse was appointed to attend to the first-aid room.
The room was arranged by volunteers at no cost. The recurring cost of approximately US$ 375 per year and the salary of approximately US$ 150 a month for the nurse were borne by the management.
Figure 120: Entrance of the new first-aid room.
Figure 121: An examination table, first-aid materials and a trained nurse.
Figure 122: A first-aid box placed in a workroom.
Case 80: Ready accessibility of first-aid supplies
In an electronic parts factory in Singapore, first-aid supplies were frequently missing from the unlocked boxes in which they were stored. The company arranged for the supplies to be placed in locked boxes with the keys in a sealed container below the boxes. In this way the first-aid boxes could be easily inspected for possible loss of contents by noting whether the seal on the key container was intact or not.
Figure 123: The first-aid supplies box.
These boxes proved useful. The first-aid supplies could be kept in good order at all times. The boxes could be easily located by anybody in the factory. The arrangements helped assure quick treatment in case of emergency.
Case 81: Ready accessibility of fire fighting equipment
In a company making electronic parts in Singapore, fire-fighting equipment was kept in a storeroom where chemicals were also stored. Because of the chemicals, the storeroom was kept locked. The fire-fighting equipment was not easily accessible in the event of fires. The fire equipment was then transferred to a box with a glass window outside the storeroom. The glass could easily be smashed to get at the equipment. With this simple procedure, the equipment became easily accessible when needed.
Figure 124: The fire-fighting equipment box with a glass window.
This example presents a straightforward instance of how emergency equipment could be made more readily available when needed. The first few minutes of an emergency could be vital in putting out a fire or saving a life. Precious time is often wasted trying to locate the custodian of or the key to emergency equipment. All the workers in an enterprise should know the whereabouts of such equipment, have quick access to it and be trained to use it properly.
Welfare facilities are an essential part of good working conditions. During the working day, a worker needs to drink water or some other beverage, to eat meals and snacks, to wash his hands, to visit the lavatory, and to rest and recover from fatigue. Changing rooms and special work clothes may also be necessary.
Good welfare facilities contribute not only to the welfare of workers, but also to production and better relations. If workers are denied facilities to meet their needs, problems will eventually result.
The cost of welfare facilities is usually lower if the enterprise provides them than if workers pay for them individually. Repair and up-keep of welfare facilities is often ignored but very important.
This chapter gives examples of provision of these basic facilities. It shows how enterprises can help workers at low cost. The examples range from sanitary facilities and provision of drinking water and canteens to recreational and other facilities. All of them were reported to have had very favourable effects on workers and on production.
The workplace should have good sanitary facilities. Clean toilets, washing facilities and shower rooms are important. In almost all countries, the provision of these facilities has been made obligatory through laws or regulations. It is necessary to provide a sufficient number of such facilities and to keep them clean. For example, in Indonesia, it is prescribed to have one toilet at a workplace with less than 15 workers; one toilet for every 15 workers in workplaces with less than 100 workers; six toilets in workplaces with more than 100 workers; 12 toilets in workplaces with more than 200 workers; and six more toilets for every extra 100 workers. Urinals may be provided for men. Toilets should be separate for men and women. In addition, one wash basin is needed for every 30 workers.
These sanitary facilities are necessary for workers' well-being and to prevent disease. Well-maintained sanitary facilities help to improve productivity because healthy workers are more efficient and there will also be less absenteeism.
If work is hot and dirty or involves chemicals, it is necessary to provide shower or bathing facilities and good changing rooms.
Unfortunately, sanitary facilities are often neglected. They are often far from the worksite, insufficient in number and poorly maintained. Even though in many cultures people tend not to talk about toilets, these basic facilities are very important and need particular attention.
In general, improvements in sanitary facilities can be undertaken at low cost. When workplaces are built, good sanitary facilities can be included in the plan with a relatively small additional cost. It is often cheaper in the end to use materials which are durable, easily cleaned and quick in drying, such as tiles. Arrangements can be made to clean toilets and washing facilities frequently and maintain them in good repair at low cost.
Case 82: Cleaning toilets
In a small engineering factory with about 25 workers in Madras, India, the toilets for workers were in an unhygienic condition. Rubbish and cigarette butts were scattered around and the toilets were often clogged. The manager tried to persuade the workers to use the toilets properly, but found it difficult. As a solution, he made a special arrangement among the workers themselves, dividing them into four groups and asking each group to be responsible in turn for cleaning the toilets each week. At the same time, the manager provided a cigarette bin made from metal in each toilet.
The cost incurred was practically nil. Tools and other equipment for cleaning were already available. The bins were manufactured using scrap material. The manager proposed giving a monthly award to the group which could best keep the lavatory in good condition. This also helped change the attitude of the workers in maintaining clean toilets.
Figure 125: Instruction on the wall to arrange four groups of workers to clean the toilets in turns.
Figure 126: One of the factory toilets cleaned and in good order, with a cigarette bin.
Case 83: Repair of sanitary facilities
Sanitary facilities were in a bad state in a textile mill in Sri Lanka, which employed about 100 men and about 150 women in three shifts. The toilets were broken and clogged and the flushes were often not working. The floors and walls were broken, the smell was disagreeable and the doors could hardly be closed. Some of the toilets could not be used at all for a long period of time. The increasing number of employees in the mill further aggravated the situation. The displeasure among the workers grew to such an extent that it resulted in a go-slow and hence a decrease in production. Considering the number of toilets which were not working, it was clear that the regulatory standard of one toilet for every 25 male or female workers was not met.
The management agreed to provide sufficient sanitary facilities: for men, three toilets, five urinals, three wash basins and an additional tap; and for women, five toilets, five wash basins and an additional tap. They also agreed to provide ceilings for the women's toilets and to repair all the toilets, urinals and wash basins. New doors which could be locked were provided. The floors and walls of these facilities were repaired and the walls were white washed. A labourer was engaged for each of the two shift periods between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. to clean the toilets.
The repair and buildings of the toilet facilities pleased the workers tremendously. There was better morale and more co-operation with the management. The cost for the repair of roofs, ceilings, walls, floors and toilets, the replacement of some toilets and wash basins and the colour-washing of walls amounted to about US$ 480. The employment of two labourers cost US$ 40 per month each.
Figure 127: Wash basins repaired and better maintained, with the walls repaired.
Figure 128: Toilets provided in sufficient number and with clean wash basins.
Case 84: Waste bins in toilets
In a pump manufacturing factory which employed 25 workers in Madras, India, the toilets were not clean. The walls were stained and cigarette butts often remained for days. When the manager improved the lighting of the workrooms by painting the walls and ceilings white, he also painted the walls of the toilets in the factory. He assigned to a particular employee the job of cleaning the toilets regularly.
In addition, he put metal waste bins in all the toilets. The white walls and waste bins changed the image of the toilets. The cost was minimal as the paint was left over from that prepared for the whole factory and the waste bins were made from waste materials.
Figure 129: A toilet painted white with a newly made waste bin.
Case 85: A changing room
Workers in an engineering enterprise in Sri Lanka did not have the facilities to change from their street clothes into working clothes and to store them. There were 75 workers in all. On several occasions their street clothes were soiled and money was stolen. This caused displeasure among the workers.
When an inspector visited the factory, this was discussed in the presence of both management and the workers. It was agreed to convert a storeroom close to the mealroom and sanitary facilities to a new changing room. The room was cleared, repaired and washed by a few workers. Seventy-five cupboards which could be locked were installed. Lines were provided for hanging work clothes after the day's work. Each worker was given a separate cupboard and had to purchase a padlock to lock it.
The cleaning and repair of the room cost about US$ 40. The purchase and installation of cupboards cost approximately US$ 320. The indirect cost in terms of wages of workers who assisted in the provision of the changing room and the installation of the cupboards was about US$ 20. The management noted that the provision of the changing room also contributed to better relations among workers and co-operation with the management. Favourable effects were also seen by increased production.
Figure 130: A changing room with cupboards, with padlocks for all the workers.
Case 86: Toilets with washing facilities
In a garment factory in Jakarta, the toilets and washing facilities were insufficient in number and poor in quality. The toilets were often clogged. Repair was always slow. There was no running water to wash hands after using the toilets or after work. The workers often had to queue during breaks due to the small number of usable toilets.
To improve their hygienic conditions, the manager decided to provide tiles for the toilets. Tiles were used not only for the floor but also for the walls. Water tanks were installed when the tile work was completed. A small plastic waste bin was provided in each toilet. The cost was about US$ 350 for the tile work and for providing water taps. The workers, mostly female, welcomed the clean toilets. The manager felt that the change also had a favourable effect on the personal hygiene of the workers.
Figure 131: A toilet with a washing facility and a waste bin.
Figure 132: A toilet covered with tiles. A waste bin is also provided.
Facilities for beverages and meals are basic necessities. No worker can remain productive without drinking clean water or beverages or taking an adequate meal.
Drinking water is essential for all types of work. Especially when working in a hot environment, much water is lost in the form of sweat or evaporation from the skin. Water loss in a hot climate can easily amount to several litres per shift. Workers, if not provided with drinking facilities, will have to make arrangements themselves or leave the workplace quite often looking for water.
When only unhygienic water is available, this can lead to frequent disease. If workers become dehydrated, they rapidly tire and become less productive. Therefore clean water should be provided in sufficient quantities near the worksite. Such water can be obtained from special purchases in containers, urban water supplies, wells or rain. Water obtained from wells or urban water supplies should be boiled or filtered if its quality is not certain. Cool drinking water should always be provided. In particular, water containers should not be left in the sun or in a hot place.
In many cases, it is the local practice to provide tea or other beverages. This is very desirable, but it does not replace the need to provide safe, cool drinking water as well. The volume of liquids which the worker needs is much larger than one or two cups of tea, especially for hot or strenuous work.
Facilities for meals can be provided in many ways. Enterprises employing more than 100-200 workers should have a canteen. Smaller enterprises can provide a simple canteen or make arrangements to provide meals with an outside agent. Cooking facilities can also be useful. If a canteen is too expensive, a separate lunchroom should be provided. Meals with balanced, nutritious food help maintain health and productivity.
Facilities for beverages and food can be made available at relatively low cost. Examples in this section include provision of cool drinking water, a tea corner, canteens using existing facilities or offering subsidised meals, delivery of packed lunches and arrangements for clean eating places.
Case 87: Cool drinking water
In a medium-sized steel rolling mill in Calcutta, India, about 50 people were directly engaged in rolling mill operations. Due to the heat and heavy workloads, these workers perspired excessively. However, no potable water was available near the mill to replace their water loss. Most workers felt the inconvenience, and it was feared chat dehydration might affect the pace of work.
On learning the benefits of providing cool, palatable drinking water in steel mills, the management decided to provide water vessels with taps at the workplace. Two covered stainless-steel vessels with taps, two stainless-steel pots fitted with extension rods, two stainless-steel glasses and a wooden stand were purchased. An attendant was given the job of serving the drinking water to mill operators. At each shift the attendant would fill the vessels with cool drinking water from a water cooler of the canteen. The pots with the extension rods were used to distribute water among the workers. Any of the workers could also go to the vessel and get water in the stainless-steel glass from the tap and drink the water without contamination. The attendant was responsible for keeping these articles clean.
As the workers consumed water quite often, even one to two glasses of cool water every 20 minutes at peak hours, they appreciated the management's efforts. The workers were also recommended to make up for loss of salt by taking an adequate meal. This arrangement helped reduce the occurrence of heat disorders.
The cost of the articles was about US$ 210. The wages of the attendants amounted to about US$ 140 per month. It was estimated that the time for walking to obtain drinking water was saved to the extent of about 20 minutes per worker per shift. As a skilled worker's monthly wages varied between US$ 80 and US$ 120, the investment seemed worthwhile.
Case 88: Providing filtered drinking water
In a medium-sized food products factory in Thailand, workers would drink water carried to the workplace in bottles or directly from water taps. The quality of drinking water was doubtful.
The manager attended a training course on improving working conditions and productivity for small and medium-sized enterprises and learned that provision of clean drinking water was essential as a basis to improve working conditions. At this course, he saw examples of drinking water facilities from other local companies and decided to provide similar facilities in his own enterprise. When he compared prices for such facilities, he found that filtering facilities were not particularly expensive. He purchased equipment for filtering drinking water and keeping it cool. It cost US$ 145. This was placed near the workroom where most workers were working. All the workers welcomed the manager's action.
Figure 133: Water cooler with filtering device.
Case 89: Provision of a tea-break corner
In a medium-sized engineering plant in Indonesia, workers had no place to have tea and snacks during breaks. There were two 10-minute breaks a day, but the workers had to stay near the production lines.
A 7.5 square metre space in the corner was designated as a gathering place during the tea breaks. The corner was partitioned off and equipped with a table and benches. It could accommodate 12 persons. The cost was nil as all materials were taken from waste materials. The partitions were constructed by the workers themselves.
Figure 134: A tea-break corner created by providing partitions around it.
Case 90: A canteen using existing facilities
The closest available place to eat was about 1.5 kilometres away from a foundry in the Philippines employing 30 workers. The workers were habitually late in returning from lunch and were hot and tired as well. Productivity in the afternoon was low. It was therefore decided to provide a canteen.
The management carried out a study and came up with a construction plan for the canteen. It was built over a two-week period in an area within the existing factory premises. The area was about 20 square metres, including seating capacity for 19 and a small kitchen. Workers were able to pay for meals through a wage deduction.
Materials, construction work and canteen equipment were estimated to cost a little over US$ 400. Recurrent costs were low. As a result, there was a considerable increase in productive work time. An improvement in labour-management relations was noticed. The production increase was estimated to be over US$ 100 per month.
Case 91: Subsidised meals available at a food stand
In an engineering factory in Thailand, most workers had difficulty getting their meals because few restaurants were located in that area. There were about 300 workers operating in three shifts. The management decided to utilise canteen facilities built several years earlier but which remained unused. The management invited an outside agent to sell food at low prices, with the factory paying for gas, water and electricity and providing rice. The price for each dish was US$ 0.12, with free rice.
The morale of the workers increased, and relations between the management and workers improved significantly. The direct cost for the canteen was nil as such facilities were already available. Recurrent costs amounted to about US $80 per day for the 300 workers.
Figure 135: A food stand for selling subsidised meals.
Figure 136: A lunchroom revived by the introduction of the food stand.
Case 92: A lunchroom
In an engineering enterprise with about 50 workers in Sri Lanka, the workers ate their lunches at various places on the shopfloor. An unused room was provided as a lunchroom. About US $30 was needed to clear the room and add tables, chairs and washing facilities. About two work hours per day were required to keep the room clean.
This separate eating facility not only solved a problem for the workers but also meant that the work areas were much cleaner. The problem of scavenging was reduced.
Case 93: Supplying tea and snacks
A precision engineering components manufacturing unit in Bombay, India, was faced with production time loss due to overstaying whenever employees went out during tea breaks. There were two such breaks a day for the unit's 50 workmen and 10 staff members. The number of employees was less than the minimum indicated in the law for required provision of canteen facilities within the premises. Therefore, the employees had to go outside for refreshments. Private tea stalls were located far from this company in order to cater to the needs of many other small units. In spite of close supervision and repeated warnings, the situation did not improve.
The owner of the unit discussed the problem with the employee representatives. It was decided to provide suitable space for tea breaks with necessary furniture and kitchenware. The employees' representatives collected subscriptions and bought the basic materials. The items were priced on a 'no-profit no-loss' basis which was less than one-third of outside prices. While the employees decided to form their own roster for the preparation of tea and snacks, the management allowed two employees at a time to do canteen work on rotation basis during their working hours.
The total cost incurred by the company to provide a kitchen platform, furniture and kitchenware was less than US$ 1,200. There was no recurring expenditure for the company except the two hours of work by two workmen per day which was equivalent to approximately US$ 2 in terms of wages.
Figure 137: A space for tea breaks with furniture and kitchenware.
This worked out to be quite successful. The employees were happy because of the low prices and felt relieved of the inconvenience of going out for tea and snacks especially during the summer and monsoon seasons. The company saved labour costs which were otherwise lost due to overstaying after breaks. This resulted in a 10 per cent increase in production.
Case 94: Arranging for delivery of packed lunches
In a publishing company which employed about 30 workers, workers often walked home for meals and were late and tired when they returned.
By providing a small loan of about US$ 200, the management was able to arrange for packed lunches to be delivered to the enterprise. The workers paid about 15 per cent less than the usual retail cost of the lunches. Production increased, and at the same time a 50 per cent reduction in overtime work occurred.
Enterprise-based welfare services not only include directly work-related services, but also those aimed at amenities for everyday life outside working hours. They include child care facilities, recreational facilities and transport. What an enterprise can do in these respects may be limited, but these facilities, if available, can greatly help create the feeling that management is interested in the workers as people. In fact, not only large enterprises but also many small and medium-sized enterprises provide these facilities in various forms.
As an example of such facilities available at very low cost, recreational facilities may be mentioned. Many workers enjoy spending their time in sports or other recreational activities during their lunch break or after work. This is healthy and increases the spirit of friendship. It helps workers feel that they are attached to the enterprise and have common interests as fellow workers. Recreational facilities are often very inexpensive. A basketball hoop or volleyball net in a courtyard, or board games, may be all that is necessary. Smaller enterprises can benefit perhaps even more from these facilities as a greater proportion of the workers can participate.
Dormitories, child care facilities and transport may be provided depending on the number of workers, the location, the work schedule and other factors. They can effectively support the recruitment of workers, especially when these are not readily available.
Special care must be given to the quality of these facilities. Child care facilities should be clean, hygienic and well-ventilated. When transport facilities are provided through better co-ordination with public transport, private bus services or otherwise, they should be adequate and safe.
Case 95: Sports facilities utilising available space
In a foundry which employed 30 workers in the Philippines, a high turnover rate among predominantly young male workers was a problem. It was attributed to the work climate and monotonous conditions during breaks. This became clear when a production supervisor interviewed workers about the reason for the rapid turnover. The average length of employment was only four months, implying a turnover rate of 300 per cent a year. Both past and present workers suggested setting up recreational facilities.
At a meeting, it was decided to provide a basketball court and a pingpong table. This could be done easily as space was available within the foundry premises. All personnel were urged to participate in the activities during work breaks.
The total cost for the construction of the court, the table and equipment was estimated to be US$ 67. The recurring cost is estimated at US$ 25 per year for equipment replacement and repairs.
As a result, the turnover rate reduced remarkably. In fact, it was no longer a problem. Better relations between management and workers also resulted from this joint activity. An improvement in worker motivation was observed. Savings in training costs for new workers and in recruitment advertisements, estimated at US$ 400 a year, more than offset the required cost.
Figure 138: Table tennis corner with a table and equipment.
Figure 139: Basketball court inside the factory premises.
Case 96: Board games
In a furniture manufacturing shop at the rear of a large market in the metropolitan area in the Philippines, 27 workers were employed. They were mostly male. Nine out of these 27 preferred to stay in the factory during weekdays as they resided 10-30 kilometres away from the factory. They went home during weekends. By living within the factory premises, they were able to save on transportation time and expenses. To while away the time, they often played cards, gambled or drank liquor. Noise at night and quarelling often affected the quality of work on the following day. The work climate was also affected.
To improve the work climate, the owner bought a pingpong set and requested the residing workers to make a pingpong table. This was done in one day. In addition, these workers made an improvised billiards set and table. The two facilities immediately became prevailing leisure activities. The owner's son and daughter also joined in.
Figure 140: An improvised board game facility.
The direct cost incurred was US$ 10 for the pingpong set bought by the owner. Materials used for building the pingpong table and the improvised billiards were from surplus wood and wood cuttings in the factory. The estimated cost was about US$ 10 for these materials. Thus the direct cost totalled US$ 20. Indirect costs included the carpenters' time during regular working hours.
After setting up these facilities, the workers co-operated in a move to avoid trouble at night. Card playing and drinking were minimised when the workers started using the available game facilities to pass their time. Relations between management and workers also improved as workers were appreciative of the efforts for their welfare. An unexpected indirect effect was an increase in productivity by about 10 per cent.
Case 97: A reading corner
Very few rest areas were available for workers at a garment factory in Thailand with 700 workers. The management discussed the possibility of providing adequate rest areas for the workers. One of the ideas proposed setting up a reading corner in the company's air-conditioned reference document room. This suggestion was immediately adopted.
The workers were asked to participate in the reading corner programme. Shelves were provided and tables and chairs were arranged in a corner of the room. Magazines and novels were collected and put on display. Most of them were donated by the workers themselves. The magazines and books were labelled by worker representatives. Any worker could read at the table or borrow reading materials by noting down his or her name in a notebook.
Figure 141: Reading corner with shelves, tables and chairs.
The company did not incur any expenses. The equipment was available from the stock of unused furniture and the books were donated. Though it was not possible to quantify the psychological response of the workers, it was very positive.
In a large jute mill in Burma, the welfare committee decided to set up a library. The workers were requested to contribute a small amount equal to approximately US$ 0.12 each towards capital expenditure for stocking books, magazines and newspapers. The welfare committee undertook the operation of the library by contributing US$ 60 a month from the committee's budget. The management provided maintenance of the library premises and lighting expenses. To be convenient to the first and the second shift workers, the library opened from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. on working days.
Figure 142: Racks in the library and some workers looking for reading materials.
Case 98: Committees to look after recreational facilities
A metal cleaning chemical processing unit in an industrial area in India was located about six kilometres away from the main town. It had about 66 employees. There was a high rate of absenteeism and late arrivals. As a result, the work schedule was often disrupted. This led to low productivity.
The personnel officer undertook detailed inquiries through personal interviews with family members of habitual latecomers. It was revealed that there were no recreational facilities in nearby areas. Some of the employees were inclined to join certain social clubs where they picked up bad habits like drinking or gambling. The officer also felt that the management-labour relations should be improved.
Four committees were formed to look after four recreational facilities. These facilities were provided by the management within the factory premises: a volleyball court; a carom game; a table tennis set; and a reading centre. Each committee was responsible for the day-to-day running of the corresponding scheme. All these facilities were available to the employees free of charge before and after their shift and also during the lunch break. The management staff also joined in the activities.
The direct cost incurred in the purchase of sports goods and games equipment amounted to US$ 660. The recurring expenditure on technical and general interest magazines cost US$ 20 per month.
The committees' work was appreciated by the management, and by workers and their families. The management gained from a decrease in various time losses and the resulting increase in efficiency. The workers enjoyed a variety of leisure activities. Late arrivals were eliminated and there was a drop in absenteeism to a quite reasonable level. The workers' families also welcomed the step as the employees were tempted to join in these recreational activities rather than to go to social clubs for which a substantial amount of money had to be paid. The management exercised strict control in the factory premises so that it was impossible to indulge in gambling or drinking. Thus the living standard of the workers improved. The participation of management staff in recreational activities also had favourable effects on worker-management relations.
Case 99: Provision of a creche
A rubber products moulding plant in Singapore which employed 900 workers, was located several miles from town. Seventy-five per cent of the workers were women. The plant had been affected by a very high turnover rate of its largely female workforce. Many of these workers were young women who resigned as soon as they got married. They said they had no choice, as the worksite was located in a new town and therefore they had no relatives living nearby to care for children.
A personnel officer from the plant consulted with the trade union and individual workers concerning the provision of a creche for babies and young children so that mothers could continue to work. Married women workers were sent a simple questionnaire as to how many pre-school children they had and whether they would like to participate in the scheme for a creche. Upon receiving an encouraging response, the personnel department took action.
A large room within the premises, away from the noisy and dirty sections of the factory, was set aside for the purpose. Furniture, feeding facilities and playroom equipment were provided. Some volunteer women workers with young children were included in a roster so that the women collectively looked after their own young children. The nurse of the plant was asked to give a few training sessions on child care to the volunteers and then to supervise the running of the creche. Each child brought to the creche for the first time was examined by the nurse to make sure that the child did not have any diseases, especially contagious ones. Mothers were allowed to go into the creche only after washing their hands and making sure that they were free from dust and other contaminants.
The direct costs included approximately US$ 500 for whitewashing and painting by the workers themselves, purchase of equipment for preparation and sterilisation of feeding implements, preparation of a corner with sufficient privacy for breast-feeding, a refrigerator and toys. The indirect costs included the time of the nurse and volunteers working to make the creche ready. They were estimated to be about US$ 1,000.
The recurrent direct costs amounted to approximately US$ 300 per month for the 40-50 children using the creche. Recurrent indirect costs included the time of the volunteer workers, but these did not amount to more than two per cent of the total wage bill.
The enterprise saved costs which would otherwise have been spent in advertising, interviews, recruitment and training of new workers because of the previous high turnover. There were also savings because of a lower sickness absence rate. Now mothers did not absent themselves from work to look after their children. It was estimated that the total costs saved equalled the direct costs incurred after less than one year of operation.
Case 100: Transportation for workers
In an industrial company in Singapore located far away from town, a great deal of time was lost because of late arrivals. Buses were provided to pick up workers along designated routes.
In another factory in Singapore, it was found difficult to persuade workers to go on night shift until buses were provided to bring them to and from work.
In an airline office situated about 20 miles from Colombo, the management found their staff were coming late for work, taking leave as often as possible and appeared tired. There were also many errors in their work. Two buses were purchased to bring the workers to and from work. The workers appeared much happier and fitter. Errors were also reduced.
In Bali, an enterprise started a co-operative to enable workers to acquire their own motor-cycles. This proved highly successful and led to a dramatic drop in the number of workers absent or late for work.
Figure 143: A motor-cycle stand in an enterprise in Bali.
In a furniture factory in a remote district of Thailand,
employees faced considerable difficulties as they had to walk to and from work
for quite long distances. A bus was found to be unsuitable, as the employees all
lived away from the main roads. The company arranged with the local bicycle shop
to provide credit to all its employees for purchasing bicycles, standing as
their guarantor. The plant manager also briefed all employees who bought
bicycles on road safety. Bicycle racks in the worksite were also provided by the
company. The employees appreciated this scheme, which provided bicycles for many
who otherwise could never have acquired such convenient transport on their