Ergonomic Design of Workplaces in The Apparel Industry

Ergonomic design of workplace

Ergonomics in the apparel industry may seem like a far-fetched word. This is because most manufacturing houses focus more on production and very little on worker wellbeing forgetting the hard truth that it is the people who are involved in the production. And ergonomics plays a very important role in worker wellbeing. This article will provide a much needed ergonomic intervention in the apparel industry. 

In an apparel production system, the production is always designed in such a way that every person involved develops a repetitive motion of the work he is assigned to, this way it has been proven that the productivity is maximum ensuring higher production. But it is not always that the repetition is in favor of the person doing the job and this can cause some irreversible injure to the operator.

A proper ergonomic design of each workplace along with finding suitable methods with appropriate time standards ensures a much better structure of technological operations.

The designing of the workplace in the garment industry should always apply the five principles of ergonomics:

1. Ergonomic principles in designing a workplace.
2. Ergonomic principles in designing working processes.
3. Ergonomic principles in determining working time.
4. Ergonomic principles in handling material and tools.
5. Ergonomic principles in designing an environment.

1. Ergonomic principles in designing a workplace

  • The designing of the workplace should be such that the work performed should be either in sitting or standing posture. 
  • Workplace height should be such that a standing work can be replaced by a sitting one upon requirement. 
  • There should be enough space for the operator to stretch his legs comfortably in his workplace.
  • Everyone is of different height, so to perform the operation at the most suitable posture either sitting or standing the height of the table or chair should be adjustable.
  • There should of armrest for the operator if the work he is performing requires so.

2. Ergonomic principles in designing working processes

  • While performing the operation the posture should be such that the operator has to apply a minimum amount of energy to complete the operation.
  • The work should be organized for easy and natural repetitions.
  • Only when there is a requirement of higher force by hand or movements standing posture is to use. Examples of such can be cutting, pressing, etc.
  • Work should be such that there is a use of both hands simultaneously whenever possible.
  • The operators should be able to free his/her hands from the work whenever possible and while serving the tools or machines operated by feet.
  • Workplaces should be designed such that the operator has a clean line of sight for the work that he is operating. E.g.- For a sewing workplace, the table should be placed such that it allows for a favorable sitting posture which includes the slightly bent upper part of the back, easy rotation of the body upon requirement, minimum of eye rotation (~10°) while sewing. This achieves higher visual accuracy and accurate management of the operation.
  • The workstation around the operator should be calibrated in such a way that along with visual acuity the operator should have the ability to perform a simultaneous movement of hands, legs, and torso.

3. Ergonomic principles in determining working time.

Production time should be only determined for the operator who is skilled enough for the job and has average experience. This way productivity of the operator can be estimated with greater accuracy. 
While calculating the average time taken for operation considerations should be taken for pause for handling loads, improper body posture in work and monotony as they seriously affect the average time due to fatigue.

Additional time which includes a lunch break, break for physiological needs, etc. should also be taken into consideration.

4. Ergonomic principles in handling material and tools.

Garment components should be placed in such a way that there is a minimum of movement by the operator in retrieving the pieces. By doing this much of the valuable time can be saved.
The operator should be free from transport procedures as much as possible.

All the material pieces, tools, etc required in the operation should be positioned close to the operator to avoid bending the body on retrieval.

There is a certain recommended limit of forces that should be followed while performing lifting operations under favorable conditions. For permanent lifting operations, the allowed load should be of 176N for men &98N for women. Similarly, for occasional lifting, it is 490N for men and 294N for women. this becomes important while textile transport especially while taking textile to the cutting table.

5. Ergonomic principles in designing environment

  • Whether using daylight or artificial illumination the intensity, distribution, and type of illumination should prevent any strain on eyes.
  • Appropriate intensity, type of illumination, distribution should be there for different operations. Such as checking operations require a much higher intensity of light.
  • Individual sources of light should be provided for sewing dark material and intricate topstitch. 

Lux Value
Workstations and external areas
Washing, ironing
Design, pattern drawing
Automatic fabric printing
Cleaning, sewing,
Quality Control

  • Workroom temperature should be adjusted such that it does not cause fatigue to the employees and also higher temperature differences will result in discomfort ultimately resulting in lower productivity.
  • The minimum work area per person should be 4m2.
  • Noise and vibrations should also be taken care of as prolonged exposure to such can cause unrest among the worker and can result in fatigue, insomnia, ear damage, increased blood pressure and many other problems. For standard value, noise should not exceed 50dB for intellectual work, 70dB from office and similar work, 90dB for other types of work.
  • Color of the workplace also plays an important role as it gives the feeling of warmth or coldness to the workers. There have been various studies that proved that brighter colors have a pleasant effect on the workers increasing their concentration, mood, and speed of work whereas cold and dark colors create a feeling of apathy, bad mood, and sleepiness of workers.
  • There should be proper hygienic conditions around the workplace provided with an adequate number of washrooms.
  • Workplace should be kept clean all the time.
  • Various studies have shown that music removes fatigue among workers, reduces monotony and anxiety at work. Thus, music can be played at intervals to boost up the workers.
Thus, designing the workplace should be aimed at a dimensional harmony of the human-machine system with the correct physiological posture of sitting allowing for rapid and accurate movement of starting and finishing of the work. 


Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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