The impact of lean production and related new systems of work organization on worker health

J Occup Health Psychol. 1999 Apr;4(2):108-30. doi: 10.1037//1076-8998.4.2.108.


New systems of work organization, such as lean production and total quality management, have been introduced by employers throughout the industrialized world to improve productivity, quality, and profitability. However, few studies have examined the impact of such systems on occupational injuries or illnesses or on job characteristics related to job strain, which has been linked to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The studies reviewed provide little evidence to support the hypothesis that lean production "empowers" auto workers. In fact, auto industry studies suggest that lean production creates intensified work pace and demands. Increases in decision authority and skill levels are modest or temporary, whereas decision latitude typically remains low. Thus, such work can be considered to have job strain. In jobs with ergonomic stressors, intensification of labor appears to lead to increases in musculoskeletal disorders. The evidence for adverse health effects remains inconclusive for related new work systems in other industries, such as modular manufacturing or patient-focused care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Automobiles
  • Comorbidity
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Economics / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry / organization & administration*
  • Industry / statistics & numerical data
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Models, Organizational
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workforce
  • Workload / psychology
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data
  • Workplace / organization & administration*
  • Workplace / psychology*