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Muhammad Fauzi Hj Zainuddin1, Shahriman Zainal Abidin 2 and Azhari Md Hashim3

Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA(UiTM) Kedah, Malaysia
Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA(UiTM) Shah Alam, Malaysia
Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA(UiTM) Kedah, Malaysia


Ergonomic is important element in designing and creating ceramic product of Labu Sayong and Tembikar
Sarawak Pottery. Currently, the use of existing hand tools showed it increased the musculoskeletal discomfort
and small injury which resulted to musculoskeletal disorders to the workers. These hand tools were design based
on nature materials such as stone and wood as well as adapted from wood works or metal work which is not
suitable for used in ceramic industry. This study explored these comparisons and identified the ergonomic aspect
of these existing hand tools. Other aspects of design characteristic, popularity tools and level of difficulties in
designing process were also identified. This study employs correlation statistics based on Pearson model and
Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) towards the carving tools and ergonomic ribs which were carried out in the
making process of Labu Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak. The results indicated that similarity exists in hand
movement pattern of using these hand tools between both types of potteries. This study concludes and proposed
to redesign these tools in order to increase the ergonomic aspect of Labu Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak making



Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing jobs and workplaces to match the
capabilities and limitations of the human body. OSHA defines it as the science of designing
the job to fit the worker, instead of forcing the worker to fit the job (OHSCO, 2007; Yusoff,
2011). Ergonomics element provides an interdisciplinary entry point for analysing
environmental and workplace requirements tailored to the worker’s postural characteristics
(Brooke, 2006). Workplace design, the type of work processes, tools and use of the body in
the workplace can be adjusted to workers in order to reduce fatigue and postural constrains.
Ergonomics evaluations of environmental design include the rational use of spaces in terms of
accessibility, suitability of operational sites, biomechanical constraints, and job demands.
Seating while working can be positioned to avoid twist and turn movements, which can lead
to musculoskeletal stresses including back injuries. The ergonomics are considered as one of
important element in the making process of craft product such as Labu Sayong and Tembikar

Sarawak. This study focused upon the hand tools for making this craft product. It identified
the tools which are made from natural resources such as stone and wood (Zamek, 2006).

This study focused upon product of Labu Sayong from Peninsular Malaysia in the area
of Perak state at Kuala Kangsar and product of Tembikar Sarawak from East Malaysia at
Kuching. The other places producing these ceramic pottery is at Kampung Mambung, Kuala
Krai, Kelantan and Kampung Pasir Durian, Hulu Tembeling, Pahang. These industries are
based on traditional business and under the product of Small and Medium Industry (SMI) in
Malaysia. Despite of the research in this area, there is lack of research in hand tools
specifically in considerations of ergonomics element. Currently, ceramic pottery research are
more focused on the design and motive itself, overlooking the key feature of human
capabilities and limitations of the human body, namely the ergonomics aspect of the worker’s.

Production and designing process of ceramic craft product in 3 Dimensional involved
the use of hand tools such as chisel, scraper, carving knife, and potter wheel. These type of
pottery tools have been around since the the first potter picked up clay and decided a smooth
rock or wooden twig would be a useful implement in the forming or finishing process. Today,
wood, plastic, rubber and metal ribs of various shapes and sizes are readily available, and can
be purchased at ceramics supply stores. Many ceramic workers make their own tools from
CDs, plastic rulers, tin cans, or whatever material that can be cut and shaped to the desired
pattern. While ribs perform an important function in the shaping of clay surfaces, they have
not been designed for the most complex tool, the potter's hand. With all the attention focused
on the working edge of the rib tools, little thought has been given to the comfort of the potter
holding the tool (Zamek, 2006).

The use of these pottery tools in daily work lead to expose the workers to occupational
diseases. These occupational diseases included musculoskeletal discomfort and injury which
lead to musculoskeletal disorders. These syndrom will affect the worker physical entity,
anatomy and physiology, human skeletal and muscular systems, biomechanics and
kinesiology. These will could lead to a permanent chronic diseases of cumulative trauma
disorders (CTDs), repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), and overuse injuries which involved soft
tissue injuries (Stuart-Buttle, 2006; Yusoff, 2011). The other disease involved are low back
pain, carpal tunnel syndrome (Median Nerve), carpet layer’s knee (Bursitis), tennis and
golfer’s elbow (Medial and Lateral Epicondylitis), Tarsal tunnel syndrome (Posterior Tibial
Nerve), Radial styloid tenosynovitis (De Quervains tenosynovitis) and pitcher’s shoulder
(Rotator Cuff Tendinitis) (Mohammed, 2011; Hassen & Andreasen, 2002). The general
occupational risk factors considered to these diseases are awkward working posture or
stressful postures, poor hand tool design or mechanical stress, repetitive task, forceful
exertion, temperature extremes, and vibration (Kuorinka, Lortie, & Gautreau, 1994; Yusoff,
2011). The used of hand tools which are not properly design according to standard and
ergonomic aspect are one of the reason for these diseases (Armstrong, 1982; Kayserling,
Stetson, Siverstein, & Brouwer, 1993).

According to Social Security Organisation of Malaysia, occupational diseases are
defined as:
“If an employee who is employed in any occupation described in the
Fifth Schedule contracts any disease or injury shown in the said Schedule to
be related to that occupation, or if an employee who has been employed in
such occupation contracts such a disease or injury within sixty months after
ceasing to be so employed, the contracting of the disease or injury shall,
unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to be an employment injury arising
out of and in the course of employment” (Mohammed, 2011).

According to Yusoff (2011), work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
including back injury and carpal tunnel syndrome are the most prevalent, most expensive, and
most preventable workplace injuries in the U.S. (Yusoff, 2011). In Malaysia, the total number
of occupational diseases is expected to increase due to long latency period and the medical
surveillance is not done according to the regulations for early intervention and thus disease
may appear later with much more serious complication (Aziz Mohammed, 2011).

According to Yoopat, et al. (2002), work manual activity showed the productivity
impact if the workers are exposed to unhealthy working environment. Worldwide Data
showed the main contribution for occupational diseases, productivity failure and
compensation cost are related to industrial manual handling activity (Mital, 1984; Mital,
2000). Manual handling activity, layout arrangement and tools design are the main reason in
increasing occupational iseases such as tissue pain involving the skin, muscles, tendons, joint,
ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels (Ulin, Armstrong, Snook, & Keyserling, 1993). These
injuries are likely to resulted when the work or activity is performed frequently, performed for
a long period of time, the work is intense, and when there is a combination of several risk
factors (Allread & Marras, 2006; Kroemer, 1992; Yusoff, 2011).

2. Occupational Diseases in Malaysia: The Trend

Under the Malaysian Employees’ Social Security Act 1969, section employees’ social
security (amendment of fifth schedule) order 2008, the new format of occupational diseases is
justified in occupational health. Occupational musculoskeletal diseases agent are justified
under occupation/industry as an occupation involving exposure to multiple ergonomic risk
factors-forceful, very highly repetitive, non-neutral work, prolonged duration, vibration,
heavy load and exceeding permissible exposure limits. Carpal Tunnel syndrome agent are
justified under diseases as an occupation involving exposure to multiple ergonomic risk-
factors, highly repetitive movements, forceful exertions, extreme postures of the wrist and
extreme movements of hyper flexion and hyper extension causing prolonged pressure on the
anatomical grooves resulting in nerve injuries (Mohammed, 2011).

Occupa onal Disease
Incidence Rate Occupa onal Diseases (per 10,000 workers)
2.5 2.26

2 1.8
per 10,000 workers

0.57 0.63
0.5 0.53 0.48
0.43 0.4 0.4

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Figure 1: Occupational diseases in Malaysia

No. of Musculoskeletal Disorders year 2000-2010
Source: Annual Report SOCSO 2000-2010

200 161

100 77

50 14 26
0 3 8 0 8 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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Figure 2: Number of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Malaysia year 2000-2010

Figure 1 showed the incidence rate of occupational diseases in Malaysia. As indicated,
the case increased every year and getting higher in the number of musculokeletal disorders
cases in Figure 2. According to the annual report SOCSO 2010, musculoskeletal disorders
MSD in Malaysia that higher are cases that involved workers around ages group of 36 to 40.
These cases are increased every year from 2000 until 2010 with the back injury remains the
higher cases followed by hip injury, hand (except fingers alone), and wrist injury (
Mohammed, 2011).

The goals of this study is to enhance the worker’s ability to perform their job, to
minimize the risk of fatigue, injury, pain, or error and to create and propose tools, equipment,
and workplaces that fit workers and thus improve their productivity and decrease costs
specifically in the ceramic craft industry under the product of Small and Medium Industry
(SMI) in Perak and Sarawak, Malaysia (see Lee, Wilbur, Kim, & Miller, 2008).

3. Analysis

An experimental technique of Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) involving 10
participants has been conducted in this study (Cross, Christiaans, & Dorst, 1996). In order to
understand the used of hand tools in the process making of ceramic pottery Labu Sayong and
Tembikar Sarawak, data were gathered and interpreted in form of qualitative and quantitative
report. An investigation by multiple case study technique was conducted as one of
demography observation in this study (Patton, 2002). Descriptive research through multiple
case study using frequencies, chi-square, correlation, and Verbal Protocol Analysis has
identified the suitable hand tools which is ergonomic ribs and carving tools. Figure 3 and
Figure 4 showed the selected hand tools (Roscoe, 1975; Sekaran, 2003).

Figure 3: Ergonomic ribs

Figure 4: Carving tools
Main focused for selected cases were identified based on five components. These
component were repetitiveness in activity, local mechanical contact stress, forceful manual
exertions, awkward working posture, and hand tool usage (Armstrong, Radwin, Hansen, &
Kennedy, 1986; Sim & Duffy, 2003). Research questions in this study focused on which hand
tools were used as a popularity tools by the pottery makers, main characteristics in designing
these hand tools, and level of complexity in the process making of Labu Sayong and Tembikar
Sarawak. Figure 5 and Figure 6 showed the process making of these potteries.

Figure 5: Process making of Tembikar Sarawak

Figure 6: Process making of Labu Sayong

Verbal Protocol Analysis VPA method define the mystery meaning of designer
cognitive capability (Cross, et al., 1996). VPA basic strategy involved subject to verbalize
their mind and emotion while doing their activity or action. This method act to descript a
subject to interact with an object. It analyse design activity which covered all the human
cognitive capability that usually limited. VPA approach define the meaning in human mind or
cognitive process in order to explain what their thinking in the middle of the process such as
designing process via synthesis and problem solving. Synthesis is considered here as a
compound activity as it involves search, exploration and discovery of design solutions, and
composition and integration of these solutions (see Sim & Diffy, 2003). Meanwhile, problem
solving process considers the design activity as a problem to solve (see Simon, 1961). In
terms of the validity of the experiment the verbalizations in the VPA indicate the inputs and
outputs to the processes rather than the processes themselves. This is parallel to the research
technique for design by Cross, Christiaans, and Dorst where they discuss the validity of VPA:
The purpose of observation is to see any interaction between the mind and the body (see
Abidin, Bjelland, & Øritsland, 2008).

Figure 7: Hand above elbow in straight position from above to upper in the process
making of Labu Sayong

Figure 8: Hand above elbow in curvy position from above to upper in the process
making of Labu Sayong
Figure 9: Hand above elbow in curvy position from upper to above in the process making of
Labu Sayong

Figure 10: Hand above elbow in straight position from above to upper in the process making
of Tembikar Sarawak

Figure 11: Hand above elbow in curvy position from above to upper in the process making of
Tembikar Sarawak
Figure 12: Hand above elbow in curvy position from upper to above in the process making of
Tembikar Sarawak

4. Discussion

Descriptive statistic analysis of frequency, comparison, correlation, chi-square (non
parametric test) and Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) identify the factor which affects the
choice of correct hand tools in the process making of Labu Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak. In
term of the choice of hand tools among subjects, several factors were identified which
influences the suitable hand tools in the process making of these potteries. Carving tools
labelled with 2 and 5 were the popular choice while ergonomic ribs labelled with 8 was the
popular choice by subjects. Frequencies value determined carving tools labelled with 3 and 4
as more significant of more than 5 times used in this experiment. Frequencies value
determined ergonomic ribs labelled with 8, 9, 11, and 12 as more significant of more than 5
times used in this experiment.

VPA analysis showed 3 movements according to difficulties level: 1) hand above
elbow in straight position from above to upper, 2) hand above elbow curvy from above to
upper, and 3) hand above elbow curvy from upper to above. This position is important in
identify the adding factor of existing hand tool. Mental simulation test indicated reaction
pattern based on mental model associated with dominance and supported situation. VPA
verbalized supported the subject voice while hand movement activities were conducted during
experiment of the making process of Labu Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak. Adding to this,
subject conducted these experiment showed the act of reflection of right handed with subject
who used left handed as well as the opposed handed. In relation to this, this result supported
and answered the questions arised in this study.


Based on the result, this study proposed an existing hand tool which is ergonomics rib
and carving tools to be redesign in order to increases the worker’s comfortability of Labu
Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak makers. The analysis identified the hand tool design of
ergonomics ribs and carving tools were useful in the Labu Sayong and Tembikar Sarawak
making process. Independent variables factor were identify as popularity tools, main
characteristics of existing hand tool, and difficulties level of process making Labu Sayong and
Tembikar Sarawak in detailed can be explore using different independent variables for the
next study. Future study would recommend an exploration or investigation on hand movement
aspect based on region and involves workplace environment and other aspect of ergonomics
factor. The result therefore will enable more specific questions to be answered.


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