Job Rotation

Job rotation is an administrative tool often used in an industrial setting to minimize exposure to a hazard that any one worker experiences in the workplace. Hazards in the workplace may range from ergonomic hazards such as heavy lifting and awkward postures, to radiation exposure. For the purpose of this newsletter, we will set our focus on minimizing ergonomic risks.

In 2005, Jorgensen et al., found that greater than 42% of manufacturers surveyed in the United States were using job rotation. This strategy is often designed for smaller teams with 6-20 jobs that involve only a few tasks that are considered to be high risk. It may also be designed for larger groups; however, the development process would be considerably longer.

Reasons to implement job rotation

With an effective job rotation, all workers involved should be trained and skilled in multiple jobs. Variance in one’s work can keep a worker more alert in the workplace and thus increase productivity and product quality. Worker morale may also increase because implementation of job rotation can be seen as an investment from management in workers’ health.

Most importantly, an effective job rotation decreases the exposure to ergonomic hazards in the workplace. For example: rotating jobs may decrease a worker’s exposure to a high risk job from 8 to 1 hour per shift thereby decreasing injury risk.

Reasons not to IMPLEMENT job rotation

When first introducing the concept of job rotation to the workers, employee resistance may be a large obstacle. The concept of job rotation requires workers to learn a wider variety of jobs, which may seem challenging. Management may also be deterred because they must train each worker on all the jobs that are in the rotation. The beginning steps are often the most difficult: when workers are training on the jobs for the rotation, they are more likely to make mistakes and be slower and thus product quality and work efficiency may decrease short-term.

Since each workplace’s environment, staff, and jobs are different there is no one-size fits all solution. Job rotation must be tailored to the workplace, and should not simply be an A-B-A-B rotating pattern. A poorly designed job rotation may increase exposure to a hazard, which would in turn increase the risk of injury.

It is also important to know that job rotation is not always the ideal solution to a high risk job/task.  Essentially, rotating employees out of a job means that more employees are exposed to that task.  Although one employee’s risk may be reduced through rotation, 3 additional employees’ risk may be increased; not an ideal situation.

What MAKES an effective job rotation?

To be effective, the design of the job rotation should reflect the workplace in which it will be implemented. The rotation should be based on objectively collected data (i.e. from risk assessment, time studies, postural assessments, etc). This information can help categorize jobs into high, medium, and low risk for different muscle groups. The assessor then creates a rotation in which the high risk jobs are separated by a mix of medium and low risk.  Some of the additional factors that should also be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • the number of employees doing the job
  • the number of jobs
  • which employees are to be included
  • which jobs are to be included
  • how often employees rotate tasks
  • training required for each job


Job rotation can be an effective tool but it can also increase overall risk present in the system by exposing more employees to higher risk hazards.  The key thing to remember is that job rotation is best used when combined with ergonomic change to reduce injury risk using engineering controls first.  The lower the risk of injury present at a given job, the better it is for all employees exposed to that task.

Davis, K., & Jorgensen, M. (2005). Characteristics of job rotation in the Midwest US manufacturing
sector. Ergonomics 48, 1721-1733.

Davis, K., & Jorgensen, M. (2005). Pros and Cons of Job Rotation as a Means of Reducing Injury
Costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, D1-D3.

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