Job Rotation � Solution or Problem?

Job rotation is the process of systematically rotating employees through a variety of jobs on a regular schedule throughout a shift. In rotating employees we �spread out� the risk associated with each position/task amongst a greater number of employees, thereby reducing exposure time for each hazard.

The ideal job rotation considers the physical demands of each position and works to minimize the risk by rotating employees to a position that requires different physical demands.

For example, a job with relatively high shoulder activity should rotate to a position with low shoulder activity. which gives the shoulders a break during the second phase of the rotation.

The benefits of job rotation are well documented in literature, including:

  • Employee cross-training
  • Reduced boredom
  • Reduced exposure to single-job physical demands
  • Reduced physiological stress, strain, and muscle fatigue from a single job
  • Reduces employee exposure to high-risk job demands
  • Reduced MSD incidents and severity
  • Increased productivity & quality

However, it is important to remember that despite these benefits, job rotation does not change the actual risk present. In fact, it exposes more employees to the high risk job/task which may be problematic.

For example, Job A involves heavy lifting, as well as several awkward postures and is considered a high risk position. Jobs B, C, and D are low risk positions used in a rotation to decrease the risk to the employee on Job A. Although the employee on Job A experiences a risk reduction, the employees on Jobs B, C and D all have their risk increased. THE NET RESULT IS SOMETIMES A LOSS. This means the risk increase to the other three sometimes outweighs the risk decrease

The take home message is that ergonomic issues should not be managed by job rotation alone!

Prior to implementing any job rotation, employers should first attempt to minimize the risk present at a job through engineering changes (i.e. adjusted working heights, improved tools, improved work flow, etc.). In doing so they will ensure that the risk exposure to ALL employees is minimized.

Need some assistance with your next steps? PROergonomics has some great tools to help identify and evaluate risk factors present in a job/task and can help set you on the right path when it comes to implementing changes.

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