Piece rates and their effects on health and safety - a literature review

Appl Ergon. 2010 Jul;41(4):607-14. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2009.12.020. Epub 2010 Jan 27.


The purpose of this study was to carry out a broad survey and analysis of relevant research articles about piece rate wages and their effects on health and safety that were published internationally until the fall of 2008. The aim was to summarize and describe the state of the art of the research in this field and if possible draw conclusions from the accumulated research results. A total of 75 research articles were examined extensively and 31 of these were found relevant and had sufficient quality to serve the purpose of this study. The findings of these relevant articles are summarized and analyzed in the survey. Since the late 1980s, there has been a change of research focus regarding piece rates and their effects on health and safety. More recent research shows a clear interest for health, musculoskeletal injuries, physical workload, pains and occupational injuries. The previous interest in risk behavior, security and accidents is still there, but no longer dominates the research scene. Although research is still sparse and fragmented, much of the accumulated knowledge about the effects of piece rate work tells us that piece rates in many situations have a negative effect on health and safety. The fact that 27 of the 31 studied articles found negative effects of piece rates on different aspects of health and safety does not prove causality, but together they give very strong support for the hypothesis that in most situations piece rates have negative effects on health and safety. In order to achieve better knowledge about the effects of piece rates in branches where piece rates are regarded problematic, further research is needed and such research has to be designed to meet the specific questions that are to be answered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Occupational Health*
  • Research
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Workload*