S Calvin, B Joseph1
Objectives: To identify the common accidents that occurred in this industry and to identify any factors that were associated in order to recommend preventive steps. Methods: After studying the activities undertaken in the garment manufacturing industry accidents reporting to the first aid room of the factories were recorded. The workers suffering these accidents were interviewed. Additionally participatory methods of evaluation were used with some of the personnel to gain further insight into the problem. Results: The incidence of reported accidents was 2.49/1000 workers during the six weeks of the study. Almost all the workers were treated promptly at the factory. Very few man-days were lost because of these accidents. Conclusion: Accidents are a common occurrence in the apparel manufacturing industry. Both workers and the managements should be made aware of the problems associated with accidents and on the correct and continuous use of personal protective equipments that are recommended for each task in the industry.
Keywords: Accidents, Apparel, Garment, Industry, Manufacturing Sewing, Tailors, Workers
A review of the textile industry quotes that it is the largest manufacturing sector in India, accounting for around 20% of India’s industrial output and 37% of total exports1. Karnataka is major apparel souring destination for the global market, with exports of over Rs. 3000 crore in 2000-01 making it the second largest garments exporter in India2. There are 5777 factories in India employing 3,27,397 personnel producing goods both for home market and for export3. There are 780 garment-manufacturing units in Bangalore alone. Women form 80% of the workforce in the industry4.
A study from Delhi found that accidents, both minor and major, are common in the garment industry5. Minor accidents include falls, cutting and bruising, fingers getting trapped into machines and injuries due to splash of chemicals. A report from Tiruppur, considered the hub of the garment exporting business in India, found that the health department officials have no information about workplace accidents. Employers attempting to avoid media attention or scrutiny by the police, seek treatment for injured workers in private hospitals6. No studies have documented the number of injuries or the type of injuries and the frequency with which they occur. However, a recent paper emanating from the United States of America indicates that although point estimates are small, injuries in the apparel and finished textile manufacturing industry is the slowest declining7.
This study was conducted with the objectives of enlisting and describing the common occupation related accidents in the selected garment industries, identifying the factors associated with the occurrence of the listed accident, ascertaining if there is a significant association between identified variables and occurrence of accidents, and recommending measures for prevention of these accidents.
During the course of the study, the investigators visited eight factories belonging to one of India’s major exporters of finished apparels and situated in the outskirts of Bangalore City. The labour force comprised mainly of women who stayed in the city or in the nearby villages. The investigators visited these factories on a regular basis over a period of six weeks to identify and enumerate these accidents. Walk through survey of the factory shop floor was done to observe the activities undertaken in the production of garments. Record review of health records and accident records maintained in the factory was done to identify the cause of accident and the type of injury and use of protective equipment, training of workers and other related factors. Participatory methods such as key informant interviews were conducted with the workers who have suffered the accidents, floor supervisors and managers to learn more about these accidents. Preventive measures identified were suggested to the factory employees and management.
There were 96 workers who were injured during the period between April, May and June in these selected factories. With a total workforce of 3858, the incidents of accidents during the study period is 2.49/1000 workers.
Of these 96 workers only 89 workers were interviewed. Seven of the workers could not be interviewed because they had left the factory. The reasons for resigning from service was not clearly known.
As depicted in Table I there was no significant association between the age of the factory worker and the accident. Out of the 89 workers interviewed 28 were males (N=571) and 61 were females. (N=3287). This statistic was found to be significant (p value less than 0.05). Thus males were more prone for accidents than females. The reason might be males were employed in the relatively more hazardous occupations, which include electrical and mechanical jobs and as buttoning operators. Out of the 89 workers the 48 were tailors and 41 from other jobs. It was found that there was no association between the work being performed and the accidents. Similarly there was no significant relationship between the injuries and any of the other factors that were studied, namely education status, experience in the garment industry, experience in this factory itself, experience in job and time of injury.
|Age||No. of employees||No. who met with accidents|
65 workers out of the 89 (73%) of the workers said that this was their first accident. Of the 24 others, most had suffered similar injuries at some point during their career in the industry. It was found that a puncture wound was the most common type of injury (48.3%). The commonest mode of suffering from these puncture wounds was by the needle entering the phalanx at the time of stitching. The other injuries were incised wound (28.1%), blunt injury (13.5%), burns (5.6%) and foriegn body (4.5%). The commonest anatomical site involved was the distal phalanx of the fingers as most of the injuries occurred of tailors. This part of the hand was commonly injured in the process of stitching the apparel. Both the index finger and the middle finger were the affected by the accident. 100% of the interviewed workers confirmed that they had received first aid. The factory workers who were injured received first aid from the ambulance room where a factory nurse is stationed. In rare cases, when it the injury was of a more serious nature, the nurse took the patients to an appropriate medical centre close to the factory. An avoidable accident was one that could have been prevented by the use of personal protective equipment or by utilizing the safety guards that are generally provided with the sewing machines. An inspection of the work spot where the accident occurred and an in-depth interview of the workers involved showed that 85 out of the 89 accidents could have been avoided by modification of human and machine factors. The four that were not avoidable were due to falls while working in the factory. Each of the factories has made efforts to demarcate areas for walking (gangways). An inspection of the site of the fall revealed that nothing more could be done to prevent these falls. In most of these factories the workers are provided and know the use of their protective device. 64 workers had neglected wearing protective device due to some reason or the other. The reasons given by them are when confronted with the question as to why they were not wearing the protective device was that it is very uncomfortable to work with. Secondly working with the protective devices did not come naturally to the workers. 78 (87.6%) of workers were trained to use the gadget or machine in use. While some accidents were not directly as a result of working with machines, the key informant interviews revealed that the frequent change of the type or machine used was likely to predispose to accidents. 28 (31.5%) accidents occurred due to unsafe condition of the machine. Of these the commonest was the absence or the modification of the needle guards. As indicated earlier in some cases this may be a result of the workers themselves modifying the machines. Also in a few cases faulty machines were being put to use. 69 workers (77.55%) suggested that the accident could have been avoided by modifiable human factors, 9 workers (10.1%) said that it could have been avoided by mechanical changes and 11 workers (12.4%) said that the accident could have been avoided by both. 35 workers did overtime and out of these 35 workers who did over time 15 workers did it voluntary to earn more money the remaining workers worked to finish of projects. However none of the accidents occurred during the overtime nor did the workers attribute the accident to their involvement in overtime work. 18 workers of the 89 took leave because of this accident. This ranged from one to two days. Our interviews with these workers, revealed that 12 of them, received pay during this leave period and the remaining 6 did not receive any pay for these days. None of these accidents required or was paid any compensation.
Review of literature related to the garment industry suggests that hazards have been categorised into accident hazards, will hand fingers injuries, burns etc. physical hazards like exposure to of noise, heat, light etc. and chemical fingers hazards like exposure metal fumes8. There have been a few reports of accidents in the garment industry from the world over. In Thailand, a study on health promotion in the garment industry revealed that many workers ignored using any safety device at work, and managed stress improperly9. In a few studies in Sri Lanka it was shown that most accidents are considered by employers to be minor, e.g. repetitive strain injury or needle stick injuries10. It was also found during this study that in the past most of these accidents -are not reported in the factory register and that the workers are unaware of any accident register.
The reasons indicated in these studies as to why these accidents occurred in the industries were poor housekeeping, organization, inadequate use of protective devices and above all the lack of a safety culture on the part of workers and employers. The following recommendations are based on the findings of the quantitative part of this study, the discussions with the management and the workers through key informant interviews and the walk-through inspection of the factory shop floor.
Safety aspects applicable to the garment industry include the proper installation and maintenance of lifts and hoists, boilers and-other mechanical and electrical equipment. On the human front, the provision and proper utilisation of personal protective equipment is also of great importance10. The recommendations of the Factories Act with respect to overcrowding, safe access to work, temperature, circulation of fresh air, lighting, fire escapes among other factors should be followed11.
Recognising that injuries to the distal phalanx is the commonest accidental occurrence in the garment industry, the manufacturers of sewing machines have incorporated an appendage to the moving needle assembly – the needle guard – to prevent the finger from approaching the needle. However, workers often manipulate these guards since it comes in the way of faster productivity. Some older machines inherently lack these needle guards. Once again the combined role of machine factors and human factors in causation of accidents is highlighted.
The importance of the maintenance of records is often not highlighted in non-hazardous industries. The first-aid trained workers and other health care providers should be encouraged to be meticulous in this aspect. The health and safety programmes that are held in the factories should cover all employees and focus on the above mentioned deficiencies. The Department has turned it focus to these aspects and the factories are now paying attention to this neglected area.
The garment industry is fraught with a problem of “turnover”. This fluid state of workers leaving one factory to join another resulted in the loss of few cases. During this study it was noticed that awkward body postures are a major ergonomic concern in these factories. Due to various constraints attention could not be paid to the incidence of injuries and muscle-skeletal problems that were reported during this period.
Some very minor injuries, such as nicks with the trimming scissors are never reported to the ambulance room. Workers apply ‘band-aid’ plasters that are available in the first-aid boxes and continue working. These injuries are not reported in our study.
1 Deptt. of Community Health,
St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore
E-mail: [email protected]