In the first of five books in a planned series, a trained occupational physician and retired consultant with the U.K.’s National Health Service uses firsthand accounts to provide an overview of traditional craft industries.
Using an encyclopedia format, Dasgupta (Disasters, 2011) describes typical crafts, such as sewing and basket weaving, but also stretches the definition of “craft” with entries such as lavender harvesting. The entries, which are randomly presented, fall into three general areas: decorative jewelry, clothing and housewares (embroidery, bangle-making and glass-making); harvesting of crops (sugar cane, coffee, tea); and industrial goods (plastics, rope-making and brick-making). Each chapter follows a similar structure and format, starting with historic origins of the craft, followed by a list of products and chemicals used, the cultural and social impact of each industry and a list of health and safety hazards. Large color photos also depict activities involved in the practice of the craft. The descriptions of the cultural aspects are a strength of the book, as Dasgupta emphasizes how developing countries still depend heavily on handmade goods, providing the reader with an understanding of the important role carried out by people who continue to work in handmade and traditional craft industries at a time when other industries are dominating the marketplace. However, each two-page entry is too brief to be instructional for those interested in taking up the craft as a hobby or as a profession, and there isn’t a clear grouping of the entries to provide organization and needed context for the collection as a whole. The health issues listed are too general in some chapters—such as injuries due to slips and falls—and could apply to any profession.
A thorough guide best suited for people working in or responsible for safety and health aspects of these industries, or as a starting point for those wanting to learn more.