Human Engineering initiatives in the Coir industry of Kerala


By

Dr. Gabriel Simon Thattil
Professor
Dept. of Commerce
University of Kerala

B. Shaji
Faculty Member
KITCO
 


Human engineering (HE) which is popularly known as ergonomics is seen to be a multidisciplinary area with involvement from engineers, physiologist, anatomist, and psychologist. It is a people-centered endeavor that encompasses work systems, health and safety, efficiency and so on. HE applies anatomical, physiological and psychological knowledge to work and work environments in order to reduce or eliminate factors that cause pain or discomfort. It emphasis on avoiding unsafe, unhealthy, uncomfortable and unscientific body movements at work by taking account of the physical and psychological capabilities and limitations of humans.

A thorough review of literature helped to identify a range of HE initiatives which have a direct impact on productivity at work. Because no single initiative management framework is all-encompassing, scholars encourage a broad view that incorporates multiple initiatives of HE. (Montakarn Chaikumarn, 2005; Roger C.Jensen, 2007;  Shiv Pratap Singh, 2009).Some of the notable initiatives are listed as follows

1) Ventilation
2) Personal hygiene
3) Safety standards
4) Plant layout
5) Waste handling
6)  Dust & fumes
7) Odour

The application of HE ranges from the design of toothbrushes to the layout of aircraft cockpits, from the design of baby carriages to wholesale packaging. People working in ergonomically designed workplaces or using ergonomically designed products will tire less quickly, be less distracted by discomfort and ambiguity, less muddled by confusing displays and instructions, less frustrated by inconvenience and less stressed by excessive physical demands. This will mean a lower probability of error, less likelihood of accidents, less time correcting mistakes and better morale. The cost of ergonomics depends where in the lifecycle of systems it is applied. Applied early in the planning stages, costs will be less: existing budgets will simply be better spent. If it is applied as a reaction to serious problems, then costs will be higher. The implementations of ergonomics programs give positive impact to manufacturing industry such as to enhance the ergonomics awareness, knowledge, reduced musculoskeletal disorders and motivate workers to work in ergonomically manner

Human Engineering relies on the fact:

An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of cure!
And many organizations overlook the fact ergonomics is good economics

This paper examines the relevance of HE initiatives in the coir industry of Kerala which is a traditional industry with immense scope for growth, if work efficiency is given due weightage.

Coir industry in Kerala

Kerala ranks first in the coir industry in India, which is basically labour intensive. Kerala has a virtual monopoly in the production of coir and coir products. A significant share of world coir production is from India (50.48%) and Sri Lanka (37.88%) ie around 90% of which India's contribution to the global requirement is 56%. Kerala alone accounts for 85% of national production. Natural retting facilities present in the lakes and lagoons that line West Coast of the state and the traditional expertise of the people were the reasons for its concentration in the state. National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI) has been conducting studies for the development of new coir technologies in collaboration with similar research organizations across the country like CIRCOT, NIRJAFT, RRL and NIT. NCRMI has created a brand image for the coir products of the State viz. "Kerala Coir Golden Yarn of God's Own Country" for improving market in international and domestic market. Coir industry is the most important employment generators among traditional industries in the state employing around 3.83 lakhs of which over 76% are women. According to a survey conducted by Kerala Statistical Institute, coir industry is mostly involved by women belonging to the backward classes and weaker sections of the society in the coastal belt of Kerala are engaged in this industry. Apparently coir industry is the front runner among all traditional industries in Kerala in terms of employment it generates, in terms of contribution to Kerala economy, in terms of source of livelihood to woman and weaker sections of society and so on. Though it is viewed as the highly labour-intensive industry and serves as the backbone of the economic development of the state the employee's physical and psychological aspects of work are not addressed with. There has not been any study so far of the problems associated to human engineering in the coir industry, nay, in any of the traditional small scale Industries in India. The purpose of this study is to fill these lacunae.

Application of Human Engineering in Coir Industry,

Though ergonomics have been introduced by various groups over a decade ago and yet there are still challenges in implementing the ergonomics in traditional industries like coir, textile etc. There are five main reasons that contribute to the challenges in implementing ergonomics in coir industries. The first reason is ergonomics was new and unheard of by most of the industrialists. That is the reason most of the manufacturing industries are still operating in a traditional way. For example when they are working towards optimising their productivity, these industries will carry it out without any consideration for the human factors. Second reason is the wrong perception of managers that ergonomics is costly, which resulted in giving negative influence to the effort in implementing ergonomics. They are not aware that ergonomics can be an investment that can help them to raise the company's profit as ergonomics programs can gain savings by rejection, injury costs and increase productivity. Thirdly, most of the employees are women with elementary school education paving the way for exploitation. Although ergonomics may be taught to these workers, they are too timid to report to the management when they faced with poor occupational, safety and health (OSH) situations, fearing they may lose their jobs. Moreover government laws and regulations on employee welfare and safety do not show any concern for the provision of ergonomically-designed tools and work environment .The main factor of the poor concern for the operators' OSH by the management is due to the fact that cheap labour is in abundance. This further contributes to the challenges in implementing ergonomics in the coir manufacturing industries. Finally, although various groups help in introducing ergonomics, yet it is still not enough promoters or ergonomist in India since there is only one organisation, the Indian Society of Ergonomics represents ergonomics professionals in India.

Objectives of the study

1) To review the HE initiatives taken by the coir industrial units in Kerala in supporting human efforts with machine interface..
2) To compare and contrast the human engineering measures adopted in the coir industrial unit of the state in terms of size of units as well as in terms of the sector in which it operates (public, private sector and co-operative society)

Methodology

Sources of Data: The major source of data was primary data collected from the employees of coir industrial sectors namely Public, Private and co-operative societies. The sectors are further trifurcated into Upper, Middle and lower based on their initial investments. The organization details of the respondents were collected through the secondary sources like Company manuals, Coir News and published documents in the company's websites.

Sample Frame

Data was collected from the three sectors in the coir industry, public, private and co-operative societies. Each sector is trifurcated into three categories, upper, middle and lower based on their initial investments. Firms with investment above 25 lakhs brought under the purview of upper level followed by middle level with investment ranges from 15-25 lakhs and lower level ranges from 5-15 lakhs.

Analysis design

Mean, Percentage, ranking tables and Spearman's correlation analysis are used for analyzing the data. Exploratory Factor analysis is performed on the pilot data to understand the structure underlying the factors and parameters of Human engineering. The factor structures thus emerging was verified with a confirmatory factor analysis on the final data. SPSS11.0 is the statistical package used for data editing, coding and basic analysis

HE initiatives used in the study

The primary aspect used in the study was HE initiatives which have a direct impact on productivity at work. A series of initiatives suggested by researchers like Roy, Ken(2005),Silverstein (1998) and Nancy A. Baker (2009) were arranged together to rank them in the order of priority. Ranking tables were constructed with appropriate weight assignments. As mentioned earlier, sector wise (public, private and cooperative society) and level wise (upper, middle and lower) analysis was undertaken to know the preference of initiatives.

Respondents were asked to rank the initiatives in the order of priority and ranking tables were constructed with the following weight assignment. 1st rank 7 points ,2nd rank 6 points ,3rd rank 5 points ,4th rank 4 points ,5 th rank 3 points ,6th rank 2 points and 7th rank 1 point.

Analysis of survey Results

Analysis is undertaken by classifying the industry into three, viz, public sector, private sector and the cooperative sector. Each sector is trifurcated into three categories, upper, middle and lower based on their initial investments.

1. PRIVATE SECTOR

Private sector was trifurcated into three levels, upper, middle and lower based on the initial investment. Under each level HE initiatives mentioned in the earlier section were measured.

HE initiatives in the Private Sector

In the private sector, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was safety standards securing 292 points. This was followed by plant layout securing 284 points and personal hygiene securing 253 points. The factor which receives the last priority was Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 114 and 50 respectively.

Analysis was undertaken to classify the private sectors into three Upper, Middle and Lower.

1.1 Upper Private Sector

In the Upper Private Sector, HE initiative which attained the 1 st rank was safety standards securing 53 points. This was followed by plant layout securing 46 points and personal hygiene securing 45 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 21 and 9 respectively.

1.2 Middle Private Sector

In the Middle Private Sector, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was safety standards securing 131 points. This was followed by plant layout securing 125 points and personal hygiene securing 117 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 54 and 23 respectively.

1.3 Lower Private Sector

In the Lower Private Sector, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was safety standards securing 131 points. This was followed by plant layout securing 125 points and personal hygiene securing 117 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 54 and 23 respectively.

2. PUBLIC SECTOR:

Public sector was bifurcated into two levels, upper and lower based on the investment. Under each level HE initiatives mentioned in the earlier section were measured.

HE initiatives in the Public Sector

In the public sector, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was waste handling securing 18 points. This was followed by ventilation securing 17 points. Safety standard and plant layout secured 12 points each. The factor which receives the last priority was Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 9 and 3 respectively.

Analysis was undertaken to classify the public sectors into two Upper and Lower.

2.1 Upper Public 

In the Upper Public, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was waste handling securing 14 points. This was followed by ventilation securing 12 points and personal hygiene securing 10 points. The factors which received the last priority were Plant layout and Odour with points 5 and 2 respectively.

2.2 Lower Public

In the Lower Public, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was plant layout securing 7 points. This was followed by Safety standard securing 6 points and ventilation securing 5 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 2 and 1 respectively.


3. CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY

Society was trifurcated into three levels, upper, middle and lower based on the initial investment. Under each level HE initiatives mentioned in the earlier section were measured.

HE initiatives in the Co-operative Societies

In the Co-operative Societies, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was plant layout securing 143 points. This was followed by personal hygiene securing 124 points. Safety standards and Waste handling securing 116 points. The factor which receives the last priority was Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 75 and 29 respectively.

Analysis was undertaken to classify the societies into three Upper, Middle and Lower.

3.1 Upper Society

In the Upper Society, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was Plant layout securing 7 points. This was followed by personal hygiene securing 6 points and Safety Standard securing 5 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 2 and 1 respectively.

3.2 Middle Society

In the Middle Society, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was plant layout securing 18 points. This was followed by personal hygiene securing 17 points and safety standard securing 16 points. The factors which received the last priority were Odour and Dust and Fumes with points 6 and 3 respectively.

3.3 Lower Society

In the Lower Society, HE initiative which attained the 1st rank was plant layout securing 118 points. This was followed by personal hygiene securing 101 points and waste handling securing 100 points. The factors which received the last priority were Dust and Fumes and Odour with points 67 and 25 respectively.

Comparative study on Human Engineering initiatives at Public,

Private and Co-operative society sector

This section compares HE initiatives between various sectors of coir industry viz; private, public and society.Spearman's correlation analysis is used to compare and validate the results.

1. COMPARATIVE STUDY OF COIR INDUSTRY BETWEEN
PUBLIC SECTOR AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR

It was observed that there was low degree of association on all factors in the private and public sector except waste handling where the deviation was up to 4.

Spearman's correlation analysis revealed that there is low degree of correlation of .306 between the Private sector and Public sector in HE initiatives.

2. COMPARATIVE STUDY OF COIR INDUSTRY BETWEEN
PUBLIC SECTOR AND THE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES

It was observed that there was very high degree of association on all factors except ventilation and Plant layout where the deviation was up to 3.

Spearman's correlation analysis revealed that there is low degree of correlation of .464 between the Public sector and Society in HE initiatives.

3. COMPARATIVE STUDY OF COIR INDUSTRY BETWEEN
PRIVATE SECTOR AND THE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES

It was observed that there was very high degree of association on all the factors except safety standards and waste handling where the deviation was up to 2.

Spearman's correlation analysis revealed that there is high degree of correlation of .793 between the Private sector and Society in HE initiatives.

Conclusion

Human engineering and its planned interventions are considered as an emerging discipline, particularly in a traditional industry like coir sector. Though there are organisations which had created a success niche by implementing ergonomics, instituting change in traditional industries are complex which many researchers constantly work on. Hence it is quite possible that this research may not have captured the quintessential role of HE in traditional industry even though an extensive literature review was conducted. Future studies could help to identify the HE initiatives which have a positive impact on employee outcome after attaining superannuation age rather than measuring it during the employment spectrum as in this research. If prescriptions could be given on managing human risks in industries which are at different points of the employee life cycle, it will help the industrialists to manage the employee better.

References

1. Ken (2005), Roy, Ken, 2005.Improving workplace safety by improving ergonomics: a study by North Carolina State hopes to reduce work-related injuries by providing ergonomic alternatives.

2. Silverstein (1998) Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among physical therapists. Physical Therapists  Vol. 76, No. 8, pp. 827-835

3. Montakarn Chaikumarn, 2005.New technologies and changes in dental care. International Journal Occupational Safety Ergonomics. 2005; 11(4):441-9.

4. Roger C.Jensen, 2007. Disabling back injuries among nursing personnel: Research needs justification. Research in Nursing & Health, Volume 10 Issue 1, 29 - 38

5. R.S. Bridger, Introduction to ergonomics ,2003

6. Kerala economic review, 2010
 


Dr. Gabriel Simon Thattil
Professor
Dept. of Commerce
University of Kerala

B. Shaji
Faculty Member
KITCO
 

Source: E-mail March 14, 2012

          

Articles No. 1-99 / Articles No. 100-199 / Articles No. 200-299 / Articles No. 300-399 / Articles No. 400-499/ Articles No. 500-599
Articles No. 600-699 / Articles No. 700-799 / Articles No. 800-899 / Articles No. 900-1000 / Articles No. 1001-1100
Articles No. 1101-1200 / Articles No. 1201-1300 / Articles No. 1301-1400 / Articles No. 1401 Onward
Faculty Column Main Page