Ergonomically Designed Intervention towards Occupational Wellness of Women Tea Leaf Pluckersin Assam

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The Tea Industry is one of the largest employers of women amongst organised agro based industries in North east India, particularly in Assam. Women constitute nearly 51% of the total workforce in Assam. Many of the activities, especially the plucking activity (40 per cent of the total cost of production of tea leaves) performed by the workers in tea plantation demand a high degree of physical effort because of repetitiveness and assuming static awkward posture, leading to early fatigue and work related musculoskeletal problems. To make best way of work performance and increasing overall productivity of the workers an ergonomic interventions study in easing out the ergonomic risk factors in tea garden leaf plucking was carried out that can reduce work related hazards and improve work comfort and productivity. In order to maintain the quality, the tea garden managements still prefer selective plucking of two leaves and a bud through hand plucking instead of any mechanical development in the process. Thus the present study aims at assessing the current working condition and feasibility of introducing low-cost ergonomic design of work tools that to improve occupational health and the work performance so that finally productivity of the workers can be enhanced with comfort. Followed by the study of occupational load, the design development of work accessories was identified as a priority area; and the attempt was made to see the feasibility of a tea leaf plucking aid that can be used by individual workers in the tea garden. The new plucking device consists of a cutting blade imbedded on a thimble type finger (index / middle finger) guard. Evaluation of effectiveness of the new device was carried out with subjective opinion, discomfort ratings, selected physiological parameters, productivity and comfort in use. If the breaking of tea shoots (two leaves and a bud) from the tea table can be made easy, the force required and frequency of hand movements can be controlled (new device lessens false hand movements) will ultimately reduce holding of the awkward posture longer; this would facilitate dynamic movement. Thus the new device addresses the ergonomics risk factors responsible for occupational stress as well as productivity and work comfort. Such small development, looking into implementation possibility with the corporate decision, for a vast end users group i.e., women tea-leaf pluckers would result in an effective way..
Supervisor: D. Chakraboti