Turns out a baristas biggest problem isn't a customer's complicated coffee order but instead repetitive stress injuries commonly known as "barista wrist." The New York Post interviewed a 23-year old Starbucks barista who developed "medical epicondylitis" which is also known as "golfer's elbow" or "barista elbow" from the "repetitive stress of lifting heavy pitchers of milk and making multi-step drinks in complicated machines." The barista was forced to wear an arm brace until the pain was so bad she had to quit. Six months later her arm was still in a sling and she "takes up to 12 Motrin a day."
The barista's story is just one of many: Phaeleau Cunneen, a hand specialist at SPEAR Physical Therapy in Manhattan told the NYP that barista injuries are "very common, and usually chronic." Coffee site Sprudge conducted a survey of 475 baristas last year and found that 47% of them had repetitive stress injuries that they "attributed to their jobs." The Canberra Times reports the story of a barista who won a pay out of just under AUD $600,000 (US $555,720) for injuries so intense that she had to have a "rib removed and suffered permanent disability."
According to Food Republic, coffee shop owners are "increasingly aware" of the threats of repetitive stress injury to their staff and are taking steps to prevent injury. Some owners have redesigned their bars to be "ergonomically safe" and others are "retraining their workers to take the physically pressure off their vulnerable joints." Gimmie! Coffee even brought in a yoga instructor to one of their Upstate New York locations to help employees with posture and stretching exercises.
· Baristas Feeling the Grind with Repetitive Stress Injuries [NYP]
· Barista Wrist: It's Real! [Food Republic]
· Real Talk: Barista Health In The Workplace – Part One [Sprudge]
· $600,000 Damages for Barista Injured by Years of Steaming Milk [The Canberra Times]
· All Coffee Coverage on Eater [-E-]