Identifying, Implementing and Evaluating Ergonomic Interventions Among Home-Based Mapuche Weavers
thesisposted on 01.02.2019, 00:00 by Gabriela Gracia
Home-based workers and artisans are a large and understudied workforce. This research examines the types of work (weaving and non-weaving) and health problems experienced by a group of home-based Mapuche weavers in rural, Southern Chile. All study participants worked for a for-profit company, VOZ, and carried out a combination of other weaving work, farm work, house work and child care. The study aims were: (1) To characterize work including employment relationships, workday organization and weaving steps among home-based Mapuche weavers; (2) To characterize hazards associated with weaving work along with perceptions of health, causes and treatments; and (3) To identify, implement and evaluate three ergonomic solutions applying a participatory approach. The data collected from this study included: weaving steps (documented via photographs, videos and written observations); visual data of workday organization; self-reported health problems, causes and treatments. The implemented interventions were: provision of headlamps, a one-day workshop with a kinesiologist and eye examinations. In addition to weaving, participants also carried out farm work, household responsibilities (including caring for children, cooking and cleaning) and other types of paid work. An analysis of typical days for a subset of the population (n=10) found that workdays ranged from 14-18 hours involving multi-tasking, taking few breaks and working late into the night. The most common non-weaving hazards were associated with awkward postures, repetitive movements and carrying heavy loads. Independent of type of work, one of the most concerning hazards was due to the respiratory effects of wood burning stoves used by all participants to heat the home and cook food. Poor eyesight, headaches, shoulder and back pain were among the most usual health problems reported by participants with weaving as the most recurring reported cause. Based on these findings, the three interventions outlined above were implemented and an evaluation survey was administered nine months after the first intervention. Overall, participants rated the interventions very positively, and while health problems persisted, participants reported reduction in eyestrain, neck, wrist and finger pain.