Does Work Bench Height Matter?

Dec 21, 2023 1:00:04 PM / by WSI Team

Despite innovations to reduce workplace injuries, musculoskeletal disorders caused by poor workstation design and work environment continue to wreak havoc across multiple industries today.


Some of the most recent workplace injury statistics show that the rate of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) was 26.9 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2020. In 2021, total workers’ compensation claims cost:


  • $13.3 billion for overexertion involving outside sources
  • $4.7 billion for awkward postures
  • $1.7 billion for repetitive motions involving microtasks (small tasks or those performed in a matter of seconds)


If you’re adding or replacing industrial furniture like workbenches in your facility, it’s critical to keep the above statistics in mind. Why? Because work bench height DOES matter. Here’s why.

How Do MSDs Happen?



To understand why work bench height matters, it’s important to dive into how musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs,work bench height happen in the first place.


MSDs can happen simply through everyday movements. They don’t necessarily occur from a catastrophic event, but rather can develop gradually over time due to repetitive motions, poor posture, improper ergonomics or sustained awkward positions during routine activities.


For example, typical MSD injuries can result from:


  • Lifting or pushing heavy objects
  • Lifting or pushing irregularly-shaped objects that create an awkward body position
  • Maintaining an awkward posture, such as repeatedly reaching above shoulder height, squatting or twisting your torso, while lifting
  • Performing the same task over and over
  • Vibration of the whole body or of the hand and arm


Intensity, frequency and duration all play into a person’s risk of developing a WMSD. How do you, as an employer or manager, minimize those risks? The answer begins with assessing risk factors, and one of those risk factors is the place where an employee performs work.

How Does Work Bench Height Play A Role in MSDs?



Workbench height significantly influences the risk of developing MSDs among workers. A poorly adjusted workbench height can contribute to the onset of these disorders by causing strain on the body due to prolonged or repetitive tasks performed in uncomfortable positions.


An improperly set workbench height can lead to various ergonomic issues, such as:


  • Poor Posture: Incorrect workbench height may force employees to adopt awkward postures, such as leaning, reaching too high or low, or bending, which can strain muscles and joints over time.
  • Repetitive Stress: When the workbench height is not suitable for the task, workers may repeatedly perform movements that stress specific muscle groups or joints, increasing the risk of cumulative trauma or overuse injuries.
  • Overexertion: Inadequate workbench height might require employees to exert excessive force while performing tasks, leading to muscle fatigue and overexertion, particularly when lifting or pushing heavy objects.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Incorrect bench height can restrict natural movements, leading to constrained postures that limit the body’s range of motion, potentially causing discomfort or pain.


Adjusting a workbench height to match the specific tasks and the anthropometric measurements of workers is crucial in mitigating the risk of MSDs. Providing ergonomic workstations tailored to individual needs can significantly reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries and improve overall productivity and well-being among employees.

What Role Does Ergonomics Play In Design?



To support employees, ergonomics must play a central role in designing your work bench. But what exactly iswork bench height ergonomics? Ergonomics is the science of optimizing workspaces to fit the capabilities and limitations of individuals.


Incorporating ergonomic principles into workbench design … including the height of the work bench … ensures that the workstation adapts to the needs of the user, promoting comfort, safety and productivity.


When determining the height of your workbench, key considerations include:


  • Adjustability: Workbenches should offer adjustable features, such as height settings, tilt angles and surface configurations, allowing workers to customize the workstation to their individual preferences and body dimensions. This adaptability minimizes strain on muscles and joints during various tasks.
  • Posture Support: Ergonomic workbenches are designed to encourage proper posture by facilitating neutral body positions. This design prevents repetitive strain injuries and musculoskeletal disorders by reducing awkward or uncomfortable postures that can lead to long-term health issues.
  • Accessibility and Reachability: This ensures that tools, equipment and materials are within easy reach without requiring excessive stretching or bending promotes efficiency and minimizes the risk of overextension injuries.
  • Comfort and Well-being: Ergonomically designed workbenches prioritize the comfort and well-being of workers. This includes features like padded edges, anti-fatigue mats, and rounded corners, creating a safer and more comfortable work environment.


By integrating ergonomic principles into workbench design, companies can enhance employee satisfaction, reduce the risk of workplace injuries and optimize productivity by creating workspaces that support the health and performance of their workforce.

How Does Your Work Bench Height Minimize Risk?



Choosing an adjustable work table is the first step in giving your workers the freedom to adjust the height of their workspaces. However, that’s just the beginning of your choices.


There are four types of adjustable workbenches available:


  1. Slot adjustment
  2. Hand crank
  3. Hand crank with hydraulic features
  4. Electric


A slot adjustment bench allows a worker to make adjustments by raising the work bench legs and removing bolts or spacers. While employees can adjust the height of the bench, this design requires you to manually lift the bench.


A hand crank adjustable height workbench is also manual in design, but instead of making adjustments, you rotate a hand crank to lift or lower the bench. A hand crank makes the process easier for workers, but if there are heavy objects on the bench, it may be difficult to raise and lower the worksurface.


A hand crank workbench with hydraulic features uses hydraulic fluid in the cylinders to force the shafts in the adjustable workbench legs to elevate. This pressure lowers or lifts the work surface. With heavy duty workbenches that hold heavy loads, this option makes the process easier. In fact, hydraulic adjustable versions can lift up to 1,000 pounds.


If you’re looking for the highest levels of ergonomic support, an electric adjustable height workbench is key. With this type of work bench, an employee can lift or lower the surface by simply pushing a button. A bench with an electrical component also requires less physical effort to raise the bench than hand cranking the bench. 


You may even be able to preset positions for convenience as well. This is ideal if you operate over the course of multiple shifts.


As you craft the blueprint for your workbench, it’s essential to extend ergonomic considerations beyond work surface height. Impactful elements include drawer placements, tool accessibility  and the overall layout. 


Strategically positioning drawers within arm’s reach and arranging tools in an intuitive manner not only streamlines workflow but also minimizes excessive reaching or bending, curbing the risk of strain-related injuries. 


Consider factors like lighting, electrical outlets' placement and cord management as well, ensuring a well-lit and organized workspace, fostering efficiency and reducing eye strain or tripping hazards. 


These nuanced ergonomic touches will blend with the overall workbench design, culminating in a workspace optimized for both functionality and user well-being.


laboratory furniture

WSI Team

Written by WSI Team

Employees of Workstation Industries who write on different topics to inform and educate.

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