This study investigated the effect of work pace on workload, motor variability and fatigue during light assembly work. Upper extremity kinematics and electromyography (EMG) were obtained on a cycle-to-cycle basis for eight participants during two conditions, corresponding to "normal" and "high" work pace according to a predetermined time system for engineering. Indicators of fatigue, pain sensitivity and performance were recorded before, during and after the task. The level and variability of muscle activity did not differ according to work pace, and manifestations of muscle fatigue or changed pain sensitivity were not observed. In the high work pace, however, participants moved more efficiently, they showed more variability in wrist speed and acceleration, but they also made more errors. These results suggest that an increased work pace, within the range addressed here, will not have any substantial adverse effects on acute motor performance and fatigue in light, cyclic assembly work.
STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: In the manufacturing industry, work pace is a key issue in production system design and hence of interest to ergonomists as well as engineers. In this laboratory study, increasing the work pace did not show adverse effects in terms of biomechanical exposures and muscle fatigue, but it did lead to more errors. For the industrial engineer, this observation suggests that an increase in work pace might diminish production quality, even without any noticeable fatigue being experienced by the operators.