July 4, 2017

Upper Limb Injuries in Baristas

Introducing the PuqPress


Next time you stop in for a coffee at your local barista, spare a thought for them, or maybe ask them how they are feeling. There is a good chance that they might be experiencing some low back pain or arm pain, particularly around the shoulder elbow or wrist. You see, it’s not just your coffee that they’re making. Your coffee is just one of up to 400 that they might have to make in that day. And had you considered how hard they might be pressing when they tamp that coffee to just the right density to make your perfect cup. Probably not, but read on and maybe you will.

It is well known that repeated submaximal loads of the upper limb (arm) can cause injury, and this is exactly what baristas are doing each and every time they make a coffee . We decided to take a closer look at this issue by examining what the literature has to say on the types of injuries that are experienced by baristas, as well as taking a closer look at the types of forces that their bodies are subject to. We will also look at a novel approach to help our friendly barista.

Barista Injuries

Injuries to muscles tendons ligaments and even spinal discs are commonly known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs do not just occur in relation to heavy manual tasks, but will often occur when a task is repeated many times, particularly if there are poor postures involved.

Injuries from these tasks have been reviewed by a number of papers over the last 5 years and show some alarming statistics including:

  • 73% of baristas experience low back pain
  • 68% of baristas experience shoulder pain
  • More than half of these injuries attributed to the work that they do
  • Multiple other studies and articles have noted the risk of injury to baristas (see here, here, here and here for examples)

Risk Assessment

MSD Risks Factors

So why do we see so many injuries occurring in this occupation? The answer can be seen when we consider the types of things that we know are likely to cause injuries in workers. Safe Work Australia is Australia’s national authority for work health and safety. They perform research and provide policy for state regulators to follow. They relate 5 key risk factors to consider when examining hazardous manual tasks. They are:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

Barista Risks

When we consider the nature of the work for baristas, we can see that they are exposed to a number of these risk factors. As we discussed in the introduction, a barista may face a surprisingly high workload including:

  • Up to 400 coffees per day. This will of course include 400 tamps
  • Each tamp will include around 15kg of pressure (perhaps more depending on training)
  • Postures are certainly awkward for various parts of the upper limb. Here individual characteristics of the worker will influence the posture that the worker adopts. The images below are typical of a baristas tamping the coffee. It can be seen that the position of the shoulder is quite awkward (abducted), as is the lower back (twisted). The wrist is relatively straight, and the elbow slightly bent.

All of this shows us that there are some risks in relation to tamping of the coffee, and this is supported by injury data.




Puqpress is a product designed specifically for this risk. It automates the process of tamping and takes all manual tasks out of the process (i.e. eliminates the risk), this solving the problem for baristas and their employers. Take a look at the video below:

The application of this to the coffee making process would eliminate the risk from tamping and therefore reduce the overall risk for baristas significantly.


It has been outlined above that significant risks exist for baristas who serve many coffees each day. These risks have been shown to be causing a number of injuries particularly to shoulders and lower backs. A significant part of this risk involves the process of tamping. Tamping has been shown by risk assessment and video biomechanical analysis to be of significant risk.

WHS Duties exist for all employers to controls these risks. The Puqpress provides a simple option to completely eliminate this risk and therefore reduce the injuries to baristas.

P. 1300 582 443




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