|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 79-83
Estimation of work capacity and work ability among plantation workers in South India
Suguna Anbazhagan, Naveen Ramesh, A Surekha, Farah N Fathima, Melina, Anjali
Department of Community Health, St. John's Medical College, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||4-Jan-2017|
Department of Community Health, St. John's Medical College, Bangalore - 560 034, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Work capacity is the ability to perform real physical work, and work ability is a result of interaction of worker to his or her work that is how good a worker is at present, in near future, and how able is he or she to do his or her work with respect to work demands and health and mental resources. Objective: To assess the work capacity and work ability and to study the factors associated with work capacity and work ability of workers at a tea plantation in South India. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted at a tea plantation in Annamalai, South India, from March to May 2015. Data were collected using a structured interview schedule comprising of three parts as follows: sociodemographic data, work ability questionnaire, and work capacity assessment. Results: Of the 199 subjects participated in the study, majority [90 (45.3%)] were in the age group of 46-55 years, and 128 (64.3%) were females. Of the 199 workers, 12.6% had poor aerobic capacity (by Harvard Step test), 88.4% had an endurance of more than 1 h, 70.9% had better work productivity and energetic efficiency, and the voluntary activity workers spent most time on household chores. Of the 199 workers assessed, only 9.6% had good work ability. There is negative correlation between work ability and body mass index (BMI). Conclusion: Our study found 12.6% workers with poor aerobic capacity and 9.6% of workers with good work ability. Periodic health examinations and other screening procedures should be made as routine in workplace to improve work ability and capacity.
Keywords: Plantation workers, work ability, work capacity, South India
|How to cite this article:|
Anbazhagan S, Ramesh N, Surekha A, Fathima FN, Melina, Anjali. Estimation of work capacity and work ability among plantation workers in South India. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2016;20:79-83
|How to cite this URL:|
Anbazhagan S, Ramesh N, Surekha A, Fathima FN, Melina, Anjali. Estimation of work capacity and work ability among plantation workers in South India. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Jul 2];20:79-83. Available from: https://www.ijoem.com/text.asp?2016/20/2/79/197525
| Introduction|| |
The Plantation Convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines plantations as "any agricultural undertaking regularly employing hired workers which is situated in the tropical or sub tropical regions and which is mainly concerned with the cultivation or production for commercial purposes of coffee, tea, sugarcane, rubber, bananas, cocoa, coconuts, groundnuts, cotton, tobacco, fibers (sisal, jute, and hemp), citrus, palm oil, cinchona or pineapple."  Plantation industries in India employ over 1 million people and are among the largest private employers in India. Coffee is grown mainly in the three South Indian states, namely Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and tea is grown predominantly in the northeastern part of India and South India.  Work capacity and work ability are important concepts among plantation workers. Studies have shown that people with good work ability and capacity have a lower risk for early retirement and a higher quality of life.  Work capacity is the ability to perform real physical work.Work capacity can be assessed by aerobic capacity, endurance, energetic efficiency, voluntary activity, and work productivity.  Endurance is defined as the maximum length of time an individual can sustain a given workload (without rest). Work ability is of high relevance for each worker and for his or her organization. Work ability may be understood as "how good the worker is at present, in the near future, and how able he/she to do his/her work with respect to the work demands and health and mental resources.  Work ability is a result of the interaction of the worker and his or her work. Work ability may also be described as the balance of the workers' resources and the work demands.  Very few studies have been published regarding work capacity and work ability among Indian plantation workers. Hence, there is scope to explore this area of research further. Studies of this nature helps in developing appropriate strategies to improve work capacity and ability. This study would also help us understand the factors associated with work capacity and ability.
- To assess the work capacity of workers at a tea plantation in South India
- To assess the work ability of the workers at a tea plantation in South India
- To study the factors associated with work capacity and work ability among the plantation workers.
| Materials And Methods|| |
A cross-sectional study was conducted at a tea plantation company with six estates located in Annamalai, South India, from March to May 2015, after obtaining necessary permission. After obtaining Institutional Ethical Committee (IEC) approval, the study subjects were selected based on the inclusion criterion, that is, all tea pluckers of the plantation aged above 18 years and exclusion criterion, that is, workers with history of ischemic heart diseases and serious illness. A sample size of 164 was calculated using prevalence of 70%, with 5% level of significance and 95% confidence interval with 7% of true estimate. However, we could cover 199 subjects in this study and convenience sampling was followed. Written consent was obtained. Data were collected using standard questionnaire and predesigned and structured interview schedule comprising of three parts as follows: Sociodemographic data, assessment of work capacity, and a work ability questionnaire. The questionnaire used was translated into local language, that is, Tamil, following which it was back translated to ensure that the meaning of the questions were conveyed appropriately.
Work capacity was assessed by aerobic capacity, endurance, energetic efficiency, voluntary activity, and work productivity.  The Harvard Step test was used in this research, which is a test of aerobic capacity (physical fitness) developed by Brouha et al .  (1943). Physical Fitness Index (PFI) is calculated by = (100 × test duration in seconds) divided by (2 × sum of heart beats in the recovery period). Heart rate was calculated at the end of 1 min, 2 min, and 3 min. Endurance was calculated as the maximum length of time an individual can sustain a given workload (without rest). Work productivity and energetic efficiency in our study was assessed by average number of tea leaves plucked. Voluntary activities like time spent for sleep, childcare, social activities, leisure, and household chores were also assessed.
Work ability was assessed using a standard Work Ability Index (WAI) questionnaire. The WAI is a validated instrument to assess the individual work ability of an employee. The minimum score is 7 and the maximum score is 49. The score categories are 7-27 points: Bad, 28-36 points: Moderate, and 37-43 points: Good. The validity of WAI has been studied by Radkiewich et al . 
The data were entered and coded in Microsoft Excel and were analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 16 (SPSS-Inc., Chicago, IL). Sociodemographic variables were described as frequency, measures of central tendency, and dispersion. Tests of association, such as Chi-square test, were applied. A P value of less than 0.05 was considered as significant. Other tests used in this study were correlation, KRUSKAL-WALLIS, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and independent t -test.
| Results|| |
[Table 1] shows sociodemographic details. A total of 199 workers participated in this study and were representative of all the six estates. Majority [90 (45.3%)] were in the age group of 46-55 years, females 128 (64.3%), belonging to class I 105 (52.8%) socioeconomic status, permanent workers 186 (93.55%). Among the workers majority 78 (39.2%) had work experience of 21-30 years, married 190 (95.5%), belonging to Hindu religion 177 (88.9%), completed primary education 158 (79.4%), had normal body mass index (BMI) of 118 (59.4%), with majority having no habits 101 (50.8%).
[Table 2] represents work capacity among plantation workers. Of the 199 workers, majority 111 (56%) had average aerobic capacity.
Most of the workers had endurance of more than 1 hour that is the maximum length of time an individual can sustain a given workload (without rest). Majority [141 (70.9%)] of workers had the work productivity (weight of tea leaves plucked) of 101-150 kg. Apart from sleep, majority of workers spend maximum of their time for household chores as voluntary activity. Other activities include childcare, social activities, and leisure.
Only 9.6% of the workers had good work ability, whereas majority [179 (89.9%)] of workers had moderate work ability [Table 3]. While assessing work ability, majority [133 (66.8%)] were found to have moderate grade in relation to physical demands and also in relation to mental demands majority [146 (73.4%)] were found to have moderate grade. When assessing work ability in the next 2 years majority [104 (52.3%)] were relatively certain of their work ability. In majority [168 (84.4%)] of workers work ability has no relation to mental capacity.
When assessed about the sick leave majority [100 (50.3%)] were found to have taken 1-9 days of sick leave in the last 1 year.
[Table 4] represents association of work ability with various factors. Work ability was found to be significantly associated with work capacity (P <0.05). Workers with moderate work ability were also found to have average work capacity on objective assessment. Statistically significant association was found between work ability and work experience, that is, those with less work experience were found to have good work ability on subjective assessment. Statistically significant association was found between work ability and marital status. Unmarried people were found to have better work ability when compared to married ones. Statistically significant association was found between work ability and marital status. Workers with better work endurance were also found to have better work ability.
Similarly, work ability is significantly associated with motivation, sleep, musculoskeletal problems, average weight of leaves plucked and mental capacity that is with increased motivation, better sleep, less musculoskeletal disorders, and better mental capacity work ability has also increased. Work capacity did not have associations with the following: Gender, job category, marital status, habits, endurance, motivation, sleep, fatigue, sickness absenteeism, and BMI.
There is negative correlation between work ability and BMI that is as the BMI increases work ability decreases with correlation coefficient of -0.74.
Kruskal-Wallis Test proved there is no significant association between BMI and work ability.
PFI (work capacity) has no significant association with sex, marital status (independent t -test).
There is significant association between PFI and work ability (one-way ANOVA). Those who were found to have better work ability on subjective assessment were also found to have better work capacity on objective assessment.
| Discussion|| |
Among the 199 workers assessed, 13 (6.3%) has good work capacity. Endurance capacity was good among 176 (88.4%) of workers. Majority, 70.9%, of workers were able to pluck >100 kg per day. Work ability assessed by WAI found that 89.9% workers have moderate work ability and 9.5% have good work ability. It is also found that 11.6% of workers take more than 25 days of sick leave in 1 year. Most of the plantation workers had musculoskeletal problems followed by gastritis, endocrine problems such as diabetes, thyroid disorders followed by cardiovascular problems such as hypertension. Very few workers were also found to have dermatological, respiratory, genitourinary and neurological disorders, anemia, and autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) and scleroderma.
Work ability was found to be significantly associated with work capacity, work experience, marital status, endurance, motivation, sleep, musculoskeletal problems, average weight of leaves plucked, and mental capacity. In a study conducted in Norway  on work ability among female employees, 8.9% reported an extremely or very reduced ability to work, 24% reported poor physical health, and 21.9% reported mental distress. Work ability in that study was found to be significantly associated with age and unskilled occupation. Association of work ability with poor physical health, such as musculoskeletal problems, was similar to our study results.  In a study conducted in Finland among 818 employees working in different occupations where workers were followed up for a period of 11 years they were assessed for their work ability according to an index on work ability, physical and mental work demands, diagnosed diseases, work impairment from disease, sickness absence, work ability prognosis, and psychological resources, similar to our study. Its association with age and work capacity was strong.  While our study could not find any association of work ability with age, we did find a significant association with work capacity. There is negative correlation between work ability and BMI. Kruskal-Wallis test proved that there is no significant association between BMI and work ability. Independent t-test proved that work capacity has no significant association with sex and marital status. One-way ANOVA proved a significant association between work capacity and work ability.
In a study conducted in the palm oil plantation in Sarawak, Malaysia, work capacity has significant association with iron deficiency anemia, mental capacity, and socioeconomic status,  whereas in our study work capacity did not have associations with gender, socioeconomic status, job category, marital status, habits, endurance, motivation, sleep, fatigue, sick absenteeism, and BMI.
In another study to find association between functional capacity and work ability among elderly municipal employees,  they found a significant association between work capacity and work ability that is similar to our study results.
Recall bias, undiagnosed medical conditions that may interfere with the results, and observer variability were some limitations of the study.
| Conclusion|| |
Of the 199 workers assessed 12.5% has poor work capacity; endurance capacity was poor among 4% of workers. Of all, 70.9% of workers can able to pluck >100 kg of leaves per day. Work ability assessed by WAI found 89.9% of workers with moderate work ability and 9.5% with good work ability. It is also found that 11.6% of workers take >25 days of sick leave in 1 year. There is significant association found between work capacity and work ability. Work ability also has significant association with experience, endurance, motivation, musculoskeletal problems, mental capacity, and productivity. There is negative correlation between work ability and BMI. Active measures are necessary for - in the long run - maintaining and promoting work ability. Work ability needs to be looked at whether it is high or low. Several Finnish studies have shown that work ability can be sustainably promoted, even among older workers.  Measures directed toward restoring work ability are needed for those with poor work ability. Periodic health examinations (to alleviate musculoskeletal problems and to regulate BMI) or other screening procedures, constant motivation, measures to improve mental capacity will help to improve work ability and thereby capacity and productivity.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]