Ergonomics in the textile and apparel industries
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Ergonomics in the Textile and Apparel Industries. Introduction. Challenges Facing the Industry Today: Competition From Overseas Companies With Access to Inexpensive Labor Shortage of Available US Textile Workers Annual Turnover Rates Ranging From 30% to Over 100%. Introduction.

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  • Challenges Facing the Industry Today:

    • Competition From Overseas Companies With Access to Inexpensive Labor

    • Shortage of Available US Textile Workers

    • Annual Turnover Rates Ranging From 30% to Over 100%

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  • Challenges Facing the Industry Today

    • Learning Curves of Several Months to Attain Needed Skill Levels for Many Jobs

    • Difficulty in Applying Modern Automation Technologies to Fabrics Processing

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  • Improving Ergonomic Conditions Can Improve Productivity and Safety - Enhance Competitiveness

  • Reduce Worker Compensation Costs

  • Provide More Reliable Workforce

  • May Include Allocating High Risk Jobs to Machines Where Possible (They Will Be Going Overseas Anyway)

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Injuries and Illnesses Among Textile and Apparel Workers

  • 70% of Sewing Machine Operators Using Foot Controls Report Back Pain

  • 35% Report Persistent Low Back Pain

  • 25% Have Suffered a Compensable Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD)

    • 81% of CTDs Were to the Wrist

    • 14% of CTDs to the Elbow

    • 5% of CTDs to the Shoulder

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Injuries and Illnesses Among Textile and Apparel Workers

  • 49% of Workers Experience Pain in the Neck

  • Absenteeism Increases as Working Conditions Worsen

  • Loss of Workers Due to Injuries or Turnover is Associated With Working Conditions

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Tasks Associated With Injuries and Illnesses

  • Hand Sewing and Trimming are Stressful to All Upper Limbs

  • Stitching Tasks are Associated With Pain in the Shoulders, Wrists, and Hands

  • Ironing by Hand is Associated With Elbow Pain

  • Garment Assembly Tasks are Associated With CTDs of the Hands and Wrists

  • Foot Operated Sewing is Associated With Pain in the Back

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Static Postures and CTDs

  • Analysis Reveals That 40% of Operators at Sewing Machines Stoop Forward > 20o Throughout the Machine Cycle

  • 60% Tilt Their Heads Forward > 20o Throughout the Machine Cycle - Why?

    • Visual Demands of the Work

    • Geometry of the Work Station

    • Inadequate Seating

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Postural Stress and Lighting

  • Precise Stitching Tasks are Visually Demanding

  • Thread and Fabric Often Offer Little or No Visual Contrast

  • 36% of Operators Feel Lighting is Inadequate

  • Surveys Found Light Levels at Less Than 60% of Recommended Levels

  • Operators Lean Forward to See Their Work

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  • Straight Backed Wooden or Metal Chairs are Typical in the Industry

  • Chairs Often Lack Cushioning

  • Chairs Often Lack Adjustable Back Rests

  • Chairs Often Lack Height Adjustability

  • Improved Seating is Readily Available

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PsychoSocial Considerations

  • Psychomotor Demands are High (Speed, Accuracy, Coordination)

  • Positive Attitudes Toward Work are Inversely Related to Increased Monotony and Fatigue

  • Positive Attitudes Toward Work are Directly Related to Job Satisfaction

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Work Organization

  • As Many as 100% of Piecework Operators in High Manipulation Jobs Have Symptoms of CTDs

  • Workers in Piecework are 4 Times as Likely to Develop Severe Disabilities as Hourly Workers

  • Workers in Piecework are 9 Times as Likely to Develop Arthritic and Osteoarticular Disorders as Hourly Workers

  • As Duration of Employment in Piecework Increases, So Does Severe Disabilities

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Duration of Exposure

  • Machine Operators Experience Cumulative Damage to the Neck and Shoulders Over Time

  • Risk for Persistent Neck and Shoulder Pain Increases With Years of Employment as a Machine Operator

  • Work for More Than Eight Years as Machine Operator Increases Risks For Neck and Shoulder Pain

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Solutions - A Comprehensive Ergonomics Program

  • Training for Supervisors and Managers

  • Awareness Training for Employees

  • Job Analyses and Implementation of Controls

  • Worker Involvement and Participation

  • Medical Management

  • Recommended by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

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WorkStation Redesign - Sewing Machines

  • 30” Fixed TableTop Height

  • Point of Operation Between 4-7” Above TableTop

  • Sewing Machine Tilted 11o Toward Operator

  • For Jobs of Longer Duration Sewing - Bench Mounted Arm Rests

  • Adjustable Chair

  • Adjustable Foot Rest With Movable Machine Control

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Work Enhancements

  • Foam Padded Edges to Sharp Table Edges

  • Provide Cloth Upholstered Adjustable Chairs

  • Angle Packing Boxes to Workers With Tilt Equipment

  • Provide Anti-Fatigue Matting for Standing Workers

  • Improved Lighting

  • Require Rest Periods

  • Job Rotations

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Automated Materials Handling

  • Eliminates Heavy Lifting by Operators or “Bundle Boys”

  • Uses Pre-Programmed Hanging Conveyor

  • Moves Only One or a Few Work Pieces Per Hanger

  • Computer Controlled - Movement Tracked by Bar-Coded Hangers and Series of Scanners

  • Delivers Work to Queue Near Operator

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Automated Materials Handling

  • Strong on Pre-Programmed Use But Weak on Flexibility (Short Term Changes, etc.)

  • Technology is Rapidly Improving

  • Future Models Will Direct More Work to the Queues of the Most Productive Workers and Less to Slower Workers or Beginners

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Modular Manufacturing Concept

  • Conventional Textile/Apparel Industries Use the Progressive Bundle System - Each Operator is Assigned to a Single Operation

  • In Modular Mfg. a Complete Garment is Produced in a Modular Cell

  • Cells May Have 10 Operators and 20 Machines

  • Operators Are Not Assigned to a Single Operation But Move Between Workstations

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Modular Manufacturing Concept

  • Teams of Operators are Responsible for Work Planning and Management, Product Quality, etc.

  • Employees are Empowered - Boosts Morale

  • A Variety of Motions are Used by Each Operator - Reduces Risk for CTDs and Relieves Static Postures

  • Can Be Reconfigured Rapidly, Providing Great Flexibility

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Modular Manufacturing

  • Significantly Reduced Absenteeism

  • Necessitates Better Ergonomic Designs of Workstations to Accommodate Different Operators

  • Many Operations Converted to Standing Workstations Instead of Seated Workstations

  • Employees Paid on a Group Incentive System

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Additional Resources

  • American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) Washington DC

  • ATMI Quest for Best in Safety and Health Program

  • Must Have Comprehensive Program to Join

  • Must be Willing to Interact With Other Members Companies

  • Nearly Half of ATMI Member Companies Participate

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Additional Resources

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

  • 800-35-NIOSH

  • NIOSH Publication: Elements of Ergonomics Programs, January 1997

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This program developed by David Mahone, CNA Insurance Companies, Chicago IL

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