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close this bookLow-Cost Ways of Improving Working Conditions: 100 Examples from Asia (ILO, 1989, 190 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Sanitary facilities
View the document2. Facilities for beverages and meals
View the document3. Recreation, child care, and transport facilities

2. Facilities for beverages and meals

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.