Challenges Faced by Handloom Weavers: Ergonomic Perspective

Challenges Faced by the Handloom Weavers – From an Ergonomic Perspective

We are proud to say that the Indian handloom industry is well known for its traditions and cultures which makes the crafts unique. It is setting up for millions of people and helping in the source of their livelihood. The Indian handicrafts and the handlooms are beautifully prepared by the god-gifted talent of the artisans only through their hands and this tradition always takes a special part of the Indian cultural heritage. In fact, we can only see the output of their hard work. We cannot even recognize how many problems they face. The weavers and the artisans face many problems and challenges from scratch to the finished product, and they make sacrifices in their working place as well as in their livelihood. Here I present details on Problems or Challenges Faced by Handloom Weavers – From an Ergonomic Perspective and Solve the Ergonomic Issues.

According to the sources, the Indian handloom industry is in the 2nd position in the employment factor and it is contributing 14% of production to the textile industries. The advantages of this work are that – it is eco-friendly, space/capital investment is less, less power requirement, and reasonable prices for their products. But the disadvantage is that the handloom sector is unorganized after the agriculture sector as almost everyone is adapting to the use of machines [power loom] in day-to-day life.

On one hand, the growth of power looms in the handloom industry is organizing the sector, as well as becoming the reason for increasing the difficulty for the weavers in their lives. Even, the role of government is crucial in the development of productivity. And we have to take their Health and Safety issues.

Challenges Faced by Handloom Weavers: Ergonomic Perspective

What are the Problems / Challenges Faced by Handloom Weavers from Ergonomic Perspective?

  • Physical Problems
  • Problems In the Dyeing Process
  • Problems In the Weaving Process
  • Problems in the Workspace; Space design, Breathing space, Light & Ventilation
  • Positioning of windows and doors
  • And, some other problems

Physical Problems

Women play a major role in the process of silk extraction. They collect the cocoons, boil them for a few days, pull thin threads from the boiled cocoons, roll those threads to yarn, and roll the yarn to the wooden roll. In the whole process, they face some issues.

Weaving is a family occupation for the weavers. The production of the fabric and sarees is completely dependent on their skills. all the work done is handmade and lots of effort and hard work are involved in it. Men and women are both involved in their respective work from their families. If men do the weaving work, women do the pre-weaving work.

Problems In Pre-Weaving [of Katti]

The cocoons collected will be soaked & and boiled for 10-15 days on steam [sometimes, hard cocoons also take 20 days to boil]. The more the cocoons boil, the easier the silk is extracted. The thin silk threads that come out from 4-5 boiled cocoons are pulled together and rolled on the thighs of women by applying some liquid, to make yarn. They roll the yarn to the bobbin and take care of the other work that is done before weaving starts. The whole process is not done so smoothly.

  • They have to do household work as well as pre-weaving work.
  • They have to sit continuously for long hours on the floor [approximately 7 hours with some breaks]. So, their backbone and legs pain for the time.
  • While rolling the yarn, women get small cuts on their palms.
  • They rub the yarns on their thighs for a long time. It causes pain.
  • The daily wage is less than 50 rupees for their hard work.
  • Sometimes, the workers leave work due to low wages.
  • They cannot complete this work in dim lights.

Problems In the Dyeing Process

The yarns have to be dyed evenly at any cost. The dyeing of yarns is done in a large boiling container. If the recipes of the dye fail, then the required color and the obtained color vary. The fabric should be washed carefully so that the uneven dye does not remain on the fabric.

Problems In the Weaving Process

The weaving is mostly done by men, and women are also involved in it. They work on the looms for long hours to make the complete fabric. They have to pull the ropes very strong to weave and the working process varies between skilled weavers and general weavers. It takes 1-5 days to complete the saree depending on the design of the saree. The problems involved are-

  • Sitting/standing and weaving for long hours cause pain in different parts of the body like the neck, backbone, shoulders, wrist, arms (upper & lower), knees, legs, ankles, and feet.
  • Normal weaver takes more time in the weaving process than skilled workers.
  • They cannot weave in the improper setting of light.
  • The weavers who come from the outside states have less knowledge about the design patterns of the sarees/fabric.

Problems in the Workspace

The workspace of the weavers also plays a vital role in the process of weaving. The looms should be arranged systematically according to the following factors of the room. If not, the issues occur which shows the effect on the work.

Space design

Mostly, the handloom work by the weavers is done at their homes. So, the space they allocate for placing the looms and working on them is very little. The working space is very congested. If there is no space for free movement, it would be very difficult to work.

Breathing space

The required space and the lighting do not completely fulfill the proper workspace. Air is also required to build the energy of the weavers. If the room doesn’t allow air inside, the weavers feel suffocated and cannot concentrate on their work. And the temperature of the workspace should be suitable for the people working there.

Light & Ventilation

There should be proper lighting in the workspace of the weavers. Their eyesight should not be disturbed due to the poor/dim lighting of the room. The weavers mostly weave in the daytime and sunlight is very important for them because the required lighting and ventilation are only possible in the daytime. So, the sunlight should fall on the looms and weavers can see the weaves properly. The advantage is, they always have the proper eyesight. So, they can work with complete interest. But the work is not done only in the sunlight. The lights should be placed in the proper position to work in the evenings

Positioning of windows and doors

The windows of the room play a major role in proper light & ventilation. The looms should be arranged in the room according to the position of windows and doors. The lighting should be more and the shadow should be less. The shadows should not fall on the looms as the weavers cannot see whether the weaving is done properly or not. Also, the ventilation depends on the doors of the room. They are also considered for allowing natural air and light.


Job regularity

Since power looms were introduced to the handloom industry, the downfall of handlooms is increasing. Because power looms take less time in mass production, the production capacity is greater, it can do many varieties of designs, etc. Though weavers face difficulty in investing in the power-looms, the handloom industries are working on the power-looms. The disadvantage is, the handloom weavers are losing their jobs/orders due to the power looms.

Loom maintenance

The handlooms should be in good maintenance as it is the only source for some of the weavers who cannot afford a new one. If the loom is damaged/to be repaired, it takes a higher cost to repair the loom. It becomes difficult for the handloom weavers as their daily wage is not sufficient to pay for the repairs.

Practical knowledge of outside weavers

The weavers who come to the handloom field of one state from the other states cannot understand the importance of the designs of that state. Also, they are not habitat to the new workplace, and new weather conditions; they face a lot of difficulties until they learn the work and adapt to the environment.

The financial condition of weavers

The salaries of the weavers are very low. Under that, the wages paid to women are very low as compared to men. So, it is very difficult for them to run their families and livelihood. They also can’t afford to send their children to schools due to the low wages.

Marketing problems

The power loom effect is increasing on the handloom weaver day by day. After the production of power looms is increased, the handloom weavers are not able to receive bulk orders. Due to the COVID crisis, the situation of the handloom weavers became even worse. As no one is moving out of their homes, they are receiving orders only from the people in their local radius (nearby places).

Future of the Younger Generation

The unorganized sector is showing an effect on the employment of handloom weavers. The younger generation of the handloom weaving families is leaving their capitals and working in other fields in other places. There is no other work and no sustainability in their villages, so how can their children continue the same?

Health Hazard Faced by Handloom Weavers

Musculoskeletal disorder

  • Musculoskeletal disorder is a type of disorder that occurs in joints, ankles, nerves, and other parts of the body. It happens due to some reason that involves the work- environment and day-to-day physical activities performed by any individual.
  • Handloom weaver performs these kinds of activities more in which there is more force required to perform the task. Repeatedly performing the same task for more than 8 hours daily can easily cause strain, sprain, and back pain problems.
  • For weaving, a hand-operated loom is required to operate with a foot pedal those pedals require a lot of force and that affects on ankle and knee. The looms are a traditional design that causes postural strain on the body. Most of the areas that get affected are the neck, shoulder, and back which is causing a major health problem.
  • While placing the loom in the bobbin, there is a repetitive movement of arm and eye which can create the problem of shoulder pain and eye strain.
  • While sitting for long hours and doing the same motion can damage the knee and lower part of the body.
  • While performing the task of yarn preparation the neck, back, wrist, and shoulder were found to be at risk of injury.
  • In the process of post-weaving, thread clipping, art design, mending up to finishing involved. More activities occur in awkward positions. Also in these processes, there will be dust and sound pollution. In this environment, workers are working and spending their daily lives.

Carpal tunnel system

CTS is a disorder that occurs when the nerve of the hand gets squeezed at the wrist. Weavers use their thumb and all the fingers subsequently along in the work. This disorder is mostly found in female in comparison to male because male has bigger carpal tunnels than female. in weaving, many processes are used for making looms and need more effort to work from hand, where the pressure comes on the hand or wrist which can create carpal tunnel disorder very easily. It makes weak muscles,

Back pain

Weavers do their work in mostly one position and sit for a long time. they don’t get any back support and work like this for a whole day because not relaxing their back for a longer period and working in the same sitting position can cause this problem.

Traditional tools are also a reason for back pain because the tools are not well designed, while performing the task weavers bent in the forward direction and they work like this for long hours also lifting heavyweight, and applying more pressure over and again can cause back pain and effect on eye and shoulder.


Malnutrition is also a big issue for handloom weavers because weavers don’t get more income in comparison to what they do. And due to this their lifestyle is not developed and children also participate in working for a longer time and skip their mills. They don’t get the proper food they require and they are putting so much energy in the making of handlooms and they don’t get the same energy from food in a proper manner. Due to not many wages, they don’t go for a better check-up from the doctor and this is why many diseases cause. These are the reasons for malnutrition found in weavers.

Suggestions For Solving the Ergonomic Issues

Ergonomic Issues with the handloom weaving
Ergonomic Issues with the handloom weaving

Suggestions For the Proper Body Postures for Handloom Weavers:

  • The body posture of the weaver is also very important to avoid health issues. Though the weavers do not study this, they have to follow the instructions of the body postures while working.
  • The chair/wooden stool of the weavers should be designed in the following way-
  • The height of the chair/plank should be adjustable.
  • The finishing of the stool and the edges of the stool should be soft as they should not cause any cuts/injuries.
  • Mostly, the angle of sitting posture should depend on the comfort levels of weaving and pedaling of the loom.
  • The pedaling of the loom should be designed to be comfortable without causing ankle sprains.
  • The seat slope also helps in avoiding back pain and leg pain issues.
  • The weavers can invest in the modified seats if the chairs/stools are sold at reasonable prices.
  • Pain in the back, neck, legs, and wrist is the most common issue for any weavers. All these problems occur due to improper sitting positions and the seat design for the work. Having a better sitting arrangement can reduce the chance of injury. Also, this long-term sitting rule is not good for the health of the workers, there should be some relaxation time in between the works. The seat should be ergonomically designed with proper seat length and height can decrease the pain in the thigh and numbness in posture. After a long bend position, weavers will get better comfort in the backrest of the seat. The pedal should be beside the footrest and it should not take that much effort like the traditional method.
  • A suitable job for a suitable person – we should always keep in mind whether the person is performing any task that is perfect for that work or not. Every human has their uniqueness, and everybody is perfect in their one job so we should always take care of this. This can decrease fatigue allowances and help in increasing productivity.
  • Working in an uncomfortable environment causes these issues so first, we need to develop the workplace in a better manner. Most of the weavers work from their houses as they get an order from a cooperative society. So, the houses of weavers are not found in very good condition, houses are old and need renovation in every way. They don’t even have basic facilities near their home. Due to this many members of the family live in a small house with lots of stuff and it creates a messy environment that is unsuitable for work.
  • The weavers get more wages and if their houses get renovated it will prove a better initiative for weavers. A better house can provide a better work environment, space for work, and clean and better lighting all these can improve the productivity and health of weavers.
  • Providing small gadgets to weavers like a chemical apron, a back belt, and safety goggles can prevent many hazards.

Suggestions For Improving the Ergonomic Workspace

  • The workspace should be spacious enough; making sure that there should be a free movement of people from one place to another.
  • The glass windows are better as compared to the iron-grilled windows. So that, the shadow of the iron grills will be not able to fall on the looms.
  • It is better to place the loom in between 2 windows so that the windows are faced sidewards to the loom, so there will be no ventilation problem and no shadow effect.
  • They should use artificial light which gives a slightly yellow shade. Bulbs like compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) should be used for a better lighting effect.
  • The walls of the workspace should be in white so the weaving environment doesn’t look disturbing.
  • The flooring should not be smooth. The finishing should be rough.
  • The noise detector is compulsory to detect the noise levels in the handloom industry.
Handloom Weavers Improving the Ergonomic Workspace
Handloom Weavers Improving the Ergonomic Workspace

Suggestions for Solving Other Issues

  • Women have to take some precautions while doing their work.
  • Women should wear a band that is made up of thick material (suitable) on the thighs to avoid the harsh rubbing of the thread while rolling the yarn.
  • The daily wage of the weavers [both men and women] should be increased in the current situation by the weaver’s society/community.
  • Government should provide the proper facilities and loans to the weavers under the schemes implemented. The raw materials should be supplied at an affordable cost.
  • The facilities should be improved in the handloom industry like providing canteens and transportation facilities for people coming from far places.
  • The government should look into the implementation of better health schemes /medical facilities.
  • The government should also arrange some events which give the motivation to the weavers to work in the handloom industry and support the younger generation to work in the same.
Education for Handloom Weavers children

Providing education to Weaver’s children can improve their standard of living. Due to education, they will get to know about all the health hazards they face in their day-to-day life. After this they can take care of themselves in a better way than before, also their children can go for other employment because of lack of education they make their children also work so, in this way, they don’t get even the opportunity to choose their occupation according to their strength but after education, they can work in any sector.

  • Author Name: MNS Pravallika
  • Email id: [email protected]
  • Profession: Graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT)
Challenges Faced by Handloom Weavers: Ergonomic Perspective

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