Job Rotation: Is It Effective?

Written by: Katie Lonsdale, AE, Ergonomic Consultant

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The effectiveness of job rotation has been an ongoing debate amongst ergonomists for years. Some support it for the positive effects of reducing a single worker’s prolonged exposure to a high burden job. On the other hand, others argue that job rotation increases the number of workers exposed to difficult tasks or high burden jobs. A systematic review conducted by Padula, Comper, Sparer, and Dennerlein in 2017 aimed to identify evidence on the benefits of job rotation. The results of this study were mixed and ultimately the debate continues. Understanding that you need to take action in this void of a definitive direction, we are sharing our professional opinion on how and when this is an effective solution.

Job rotation has the potential to decrease a worker’s exposure to a cumulative risk, however sharing the demands amongst workers can increase the risk of an acute injury. The only way to eliminate the risk of an ergonomic concern is by addressing the actual root cause of the problem. For example, if a worker is required to lift a “heavy” box, job rotation will reduce the number of times they must perform this task during a shift, decreasing their exposure to the risk. The only way to eliminate the risk is by addressing the root cause – the requirement to lift the “heavy” box.

Job rotation programs are also tricky to effectively implement and sustain. They require many factors to operate smoothly, including factors that are uncontrollable. For example, in order to maximize a job rotation program, all employees must show up every day; something that is very difficult to achieve with vacation days, sick days, etc. An additional point to consider when implementing a job rotation program is whether the rotation actually relieves a worker from consecutive and similar high-burden tasks – truly providing active recovery. Does your job rotation program focus on exposing workers to different postures throughout the day?

On a positive note, many studies have indicated that job satisfaction outcomes increase with the implementation of a job-rotation program (Padula et al., 2017). Job rotation has the ability to improve employee morale by exposing workers to a variety of tasks. This variety can also decrease the cognitive demand required, allowing workers to pay closer attention to detail and catch any defects or quality concerns.

Now back to the original question – is job rotation effective? In our professional opinion, although there are both positive and negative effects of implementing a job rotation program, it is not an effective way to eliminate ergonomic concerns. Ultimately, job rotation is an administrative control and should not be treated as a substitute for an ergonomic solution. The only way to limit a worker’s exposure to high burden jobs is to engineer controls that eliminate the root cause.

Contact us to discuss your current job rotation program or, if you would like assistance in determining effective solutions to control your ergonomic concerns.

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