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Poultry Processing Industry eTool

Ergonomics - High Repetition

Most all jobs in poultry processing involve highly repetitive tasks — repeating the same motions over and over again at a fast pace with little variation in the tasks. For example:
  • Live hang jobs can involve lifting live birds from a floor conveyor into shoulder height shackles as frequently as 20 to 25 times per minute.
  • Rehang jobs require lifting of semi-processed birds from a conveyor to shoulder height shackles every few seconds.

    • A single employee may be required to process hundreds of gizzards every hour.
    • Employees often must package whole chickens into bags at a rate of one every 5 seconds.
    • Cutting and trimming tasks often require 6 to 10 scissor or knife cuts per minute.
    • Employees often must lift heavy loads consisting of multiple birds or boxes of product at rates as high as 10 per minute.
When motions are repeated frequently (e.g., every few seconds) for prolonged periods, such as several hours without any break or over an entire workshift, there may be inadequate time for muscles and tendons to recover. If the repetitive tasks also involve other ergonomic risk factors, muscles and tendons become extremely strained or fatigued more quickly.

Highly repetitive tasks often involve the use of only a few muscles or body parts while the rest of the body is unaffected. To reduce the strain that repetitive tasks pose to those body parts, a number of employers in the poultry processing industry have done the following:
  • Job rotation — Rotating employees into several different jobs during the course of a workshift is a way to distribute work so that each employee spends less time performing the same repetitive tasks. In order for job rotation to reduce muscle/tendon strain and provide adequate recovery time, the different jobs into which workers rotate need to involve the use of different muscles or body parts.
  • Job enlargement — Designing jobs so they include a wider variety of tasks (or a longer motion pattern) is another way to reduce the frequency and duration of repetitive motions.
  • Micro breaks or rest pauses — Building short micro pauses between motions or tasks is another way to give muscles and tendons recovery time.

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