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Working long hours hunched over a workbench is a recipe for a bad back, and a problem easily fixed by getting the right workbench height.

But what is the best height? This is one of those situations where “best” is a relative term and trying to pin it down to a single number for every person and every situation isn’t possible.

Still, you do need to get your workspace to an optimal height for health, safety, and efficiency reasons. An inch or two makes a big difference in a work setting where you’re at the bench for long hours.

Let’s look at how to calculate the right height, why it’s important, and an easy solution to the challenge of getting the right height in a workplace with so many variables.

Rules of Thumb

When it comes to optimal workbench height, the rule of thumb is literally a rule of thumb.

The easiest and most common method of determining how high your workbench should be is to make it even with the first knuckle of your thumb. This gives you a semi-custom measurement that should work most of the time. It’s not always the best way to determine the proper height, though, since bodies differ and arms can be in different proportions to the rest.

The palm test is another version where you keep your arms straight down and flex your hands out so the palms are parallel to the floor. Measure from the floor to your palm to get a good measurement for you. Test an existing workbench by seeing if you can put your palm on the top without bending your elbow.

The average workbench height tends to fall in the 34-inch to 38-inch range, based on average heights and what works for a mix of activities.

Why Workbench Height Matters

So just why do we care about getting the ideal workbench height, especially when there is no one ideal?

In an industrial setting, it starts and ends with workplace safety. Having your workspace at the right height for you gives you the best visibility and reach for the job. It also puts your tools at the right level for proper equipment use.

Branching off from safety are ergonomic issues that relate to long-term health. In general, a lower work height is better for heavy, tiring work, while a taller table can keep you from stooping over your work. A workbench at the wrong height may increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders like chronic back pain, tendonitis, and arthritis.

MSD cases cost employers through increased absences as well as higher health care, disability, and worker’s comp costs. They cost more than average nonfatal employee injuries or illnesses that happen on the job.

The last piece relates to safety but is more about getting the job done properly, and that’s the fact that different equipment works more efficiently when deployed at certain heights. For example, one reason 34 inches is a common height for workbenches is that it matches the height of a table saw.

But if you’re doing work like planning that requires some leverage for proper pressure, you’d want a workbench top that sits a couple of inches lower. Conversely, a work table that’s a couple of inches taller can be more comfortable for assembly or detail work.

Why Best Is Hard to Get

What makes the quest for the right workbench height is that average still gives you too wide a range to work with.

The average height of an adult male is about 5 feet, 9 inches tall in the United States. Compare that to the average height in Denmark – 5 feet, 11.9 inches – and The Philippines – 5 feet, 4.25 inches – and you can see that targeting an average height is a tough proposition. The more diverse your workforce, the more likely it is that you’ll have a lot of size diversity as well.

Just as people vary, so does the equipment you’ll have them working with, in your warehouse. Tools for fine detail work are best deployed closer to the face, while work that needs some brute force needs to be low enough to allow for that and good foot traction.

For some, the answer might be to have multiple work surfaces at different heights. But for workbenches in warehouses or industrial settings, that’s not always a viable option. It is expensive to customize for all possible scenarios and it takes a lot of space to do it right.

The Solution? Adjustable Heights

The answer to many of these challenges is quite simple – the adjustable-height workbench. It offers the ultimate flexibility to meet the needs of the moment.

Height-adjustable benches accommodate workers of different heights, a benefit if you have shift workers using the same station. The workspace can provide the perfect height for each individual without extra cost or effort, improving ergonomics for everyone.

These benches also mean a single worker can change the height throughout their shift as they take on different tasks. They can sit or stand based on whatever task they’re currently working on.

Most height-adjustable workbenches allow for precision adjustments that make it quick and easy to get the level set right where you need it. The most cost-effective adjustment mechanism involves loosening and tightening screws. But for speed and efficiency, you might consider a manual hand crank or electric motor model.

Easy Customization for Your Warehouse

Getting your workbench height just right for the work at hand and your staff can be a bit of a challenge. You have to account for different types of jobs and the varying scale of people in doing so. An adjustable option allows you to get the proper workbench height every time without extra hassle or expense.

Interested in learning more about setting up your industrial workspace? Check out our other articles and tips on the workplace, safety, and equipment.

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