1307 Using ethnographic interviews to facilitate a participatory ergonomics study among home-based mapuche weavers in southern chile

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While there is extensive literature on ergonomic hazards related to weaving, research on implementing interventions is limited. The Mapuche represent Chile’s largest indigenous population and weaving represents an important source of income for women. While home-based work allows for flexible scheduling, it can also lead to working long hours, difficulty balancing professional and domestic responsibilities and greater occupational health issues. Participatory approaches have proven successful in addressing occupational health problems, however, there is scant research related to home-based artisans.


A convenience sample of 35 home-based Mapuche weavers in Southern Chile were recruited for the study. Of these, 10 participated in ethnographic interviews. Purposive sampling was used to obtain a representative sample across communities, identified health issues; workspace type; and years of weaving experience. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in the weavers’ homes along with videos, photograph and written observations of the weaving workspaces. The interviews focused on workday organisation; weaving workspace; self-identified health issues, perceived causes and potential solutions to hazard prevention. Data were analysed using Atlas.ti.


Each interview yielded a ‘day-in-the-life’ visual. This graphic model helped facilitate discussions around time management, health issues, potential causes and treatment. In addition to weaving, participants identified farm work (n=9), housework (n=9), wool production (n=7) and dyeing (n=7) as tasks that caused health issues. Respondents identified weaving as the cause of eyestrain (n=7), back (n=6), shoulder (n=5) and hand pain (n=4). Interventions identified, implemented and currently being evaluated include: provision of eye exams, a kinesiologist workshop and provision of headlamps.


This project demonstrates the importance of using ethnographic methods to strengthen participatory approaches to artisan occupational health. The data provided unique insight into the complex relationship between home-based work, health and sustainable interventions. This work yielded a culturally appropriate methodology that can be applied to other home-based artisans.

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