Ergonomics done right.®
September 14th, 2011

Article Review: Ergonomic Design Increases Productivity 35% in Food Service

The first in a series of article reviews, this study looks at how adjustable work surfaces in food prep areas affect employee productivity.

Article Title: An Investigation of Ergonomic Design And Productivity Improvements In Foodservice Production Tables

Authors: Susan j. Cocci, Karthik Namasivayam, and Peter Bordi of Penn State University, School of Hospitality Management

The food service industry ranks number one in work-related injuries and illnesses in the United States with estimates by the National Academy of Sciences of 45 to 54 billion dollars in associated costs. Workers in this industry are particularly susceptible to ergonomic and musculoskeletal injuries such as repetitive stress damage, strains, sprains and lacerations.

The primary factor of worker’s discomfort is posture, which is greatly influenced by the dimensions of the workstation. Common workstations in commercial kitchens are countertops with a typical vertical height of 34 inches. They are used for tasks including vegetable and meat preparation.

This study compared the vertical heights of kitchen countertops where one group had a fixed workstation height of 34 inches, and the second group had workstation heights adjusted to match their individual elbow height.

The results indicated that individuals working on adjustable workstations improved their productivity by 35% compared to the group using the fixed workstations.

In the past, step stools were used to address adjustability but were removed due to accident prevention measures. This study provides strong support to the valve of implementing ergonomically designed workstations.

Not only the food service industry, but numerous manual material handling industries should investigate the use of adjustable workstations to increase productivity and contribute to safe work practices.