Matt Culloty, Ergonomist based in the Chris Mee Group Cork HQ, reflects on the use of job rotation as a control measure in the avoidance of musculoskeletal injury in the workplace.
Generally, Job Rotation can be defined by rotating workers to tasks with varying levels of exposure and physical demands. It is often implemented as an administrative control to minimise the occupational exposure from common physical risk factors associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) on a particular worker or group of workers. This is the conventional approach to reducing musculoskeletal injury – reduce the ‘dose’ to an individual and you reduce the risk.
This approach may provide a positive outcome by reducing boredom in undertaking monotonous simple repetitive tasks, creating a more flexible workforce to move to different workstations and allowing more opportunity for workers to upskill and be trained in other tasks. In contrast however there could also be increased risk if this type of practice is implemented without forethought and careful consideration of potential consequences.
Recent studies have highlighted that there is inconsistent to inconclusive evidence for recommending job rotation as a strategy for preventing musculoskeletal injuries. Job rotation as a main strategy does not appear to reduce or redistribute the injury risk when rotating between high-risk tasks to low risk tasks but could lead to a trade-off of increasing the risk of low-risk jobs for the sake of high-risk jobs. This can have negative effects over the long term by increasing musculoskeletal injury risk over the broader working group.
Job rotation can have more desired effects when the tasks are already low risk allowing positive variations in the working environment however the caveat of individual circumstances must be applied. This is to take account of what working muscle groups are activated, psychosocial factors of the workplace, sufficient muscle fatigue rest/recovery etc.
What should be kept in mind when looking at Job Rotation?
How have you dealt with job rotation implementation, did this create positive or negative consequences in the work environment?
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Keir, P., Sanei, K., & Holmes, M. (2011). Task rotation effects on upper extremity and back muscle activity. Applied Ergonomics, 814-819.
Leider, P. C., Boschman, J. S., Frings-Dresen, M. H., & van der Molen, H. F. (2015). Effects of job rotation on musculoskeletal complaints and related work exposures: a systematic. Ergonomics, 18-32.
Mehdizadeh, A., Vinel, A., Hu, Q., Schall Jr, M. C., Gallagher, S., & Sesek, R. F. (2020). Job rotation and work-related musculoskeletal. Ergonomics.