Rest break interventions in stoop labor tasks

Appl Ergon. 2007 Mar;38(2):219-26. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2006.02.003. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


Hand cultivation and harvest of agricultural products constitute strenuous physical tasks. Working with labor-management ergonomics committees in agricultural settings, the UC Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center (AERC) tested an experimental rest and recovery protocol for its impact on symptoms and productivity during two types of work tasks. The experimental condition consisted of adding a 5 min rest break to every working hour in which there was no other scheduled break (e.g., lunchtime). This resulted in an additional 20 min of rest per workday. We tested the intervention in two trials: Trial one compared workers (n=66) randomly assigned to an experimental or a control group during the harvest of commercial strawberries. Trial two utilized a cross-over design (n=16 pairs of workers) to compare experimental and control conditions while workers inserted bud grafts into young 18'' high citrus trees. For both trials, workers under the experimental condition reported significantly less severe symptoms than workers under control conditions. The order in which the intervention was given, however, appeared to result in variations in productivity. We conclude that the introduction of frequent, brief rest breaks may improve symptoms for workers engaged in strenuous work tasks.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Ergonomics*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Rest*