Laboratory Ergonomics

Employees working in laboratory perform routinely task such as pipetting, working at microscopes, operating microtomes, keyboarding at computer workstations, standing and working in awkward positions in front of laboratory hoods/safety cabinets which can present ergonomic risk of repetitive motion injuries. Is important to become familiar with how to control laboratory ergonomics-related risk factors, in order to prevent and reduce occupational injuries.

Laboratory Safety Ergonomics – OSHA Guidelines

  • Use a chair that provides good back support and sit against the back of the chair.
  • Lower the chair or adjust the foot ring or get a footrest, if their feet dangle.
  • Tilt the seat forward or use a seat wedge when working in a forward posture; do not jut their chin forward when working. Adjust the position of their work, the work surface, or the chair so that they sit in an upright, supported position.
  • Always try to work at a bench cut out; cut outs can help workers get close to their work while sitting against the back of their chair.
  • Use supportive shoes and cushioned mats if required to stand for long periods.
  • Keep frequently used trays and supplies within close reach.
  • Keep their shoulders relaxed and their elbows close to their sides when working. Avoid reaching to use instruments and work materials.
  • Maintain neutral wrist and arm postures when working; work with their wrists in a neutral or straight position.
  • Sit close to their work area, keep objects close and adjust their chair to match the height of the bench.
  • Avoid repetitive or forceful twisting and turning motions
  • Select equipment and tools that are the right size for their hands.
  • Use padding and tubing to reduce pressure and force when working.
  • Use thin, flexible gloves that fit properly.
  • Shift their weight often when standing to work.
  • Use a stool or shelf to prop up a foot to relieve pressure on their back.
  • Alternate how they hold objects like forceps. To vary the task, alternate holding with the thumb and index finger, and with the index and middle fingers.
  • Elevate chair rather than reaching up to pipette.
  • Do not twist or rotate their wrist while pipetting.
  • Alternate hands or use both hands to pipette.
  • Hold the pipetter with a relaxed grip.
  • Use electronic pipettes or light touch models whenever possible.
  • Use minimal pressure while pipetting.
  • Use a light amount of force or two hands to change tips.
  • Use low profile tubes, solution containers and waste receptacles.
  • Select a lightweight pipetter, properly sized for their hand.
  • Use pipetters with finger aspirators and thumb dispensers to reduce thumb strain.
  • Use latch-mode or electronic pipetters for repetitive pipetting.
  • Take a 1-2 minute break after every 20 minutes of pipetting.
  • Sit close to the work surface.
  • Avoid leaning on hard edges.
  • Pad forearms and edges.
  • Keep elbows close to their sides.
  • Adjust chair, workbench, or microscope as needed to maintain an upright head position.
  • Elevate, tilt or move the microscope close to the edge of the counter to avoid bending their neck.
  • Use adjustable eyepieces or mount your microscope on a 30° angle stand for easier viewing.
  • Keep scopes repaired and clean.
  • Spread microscope work throughout the day and share it with several people, if possible.
  • Take short breaks. Every 15 minutes, close the eyes or focus on something in the distance. Every 30-60 minutes, get up to stretch and move.
  • Remove unnecessary supplies from the work area.
  • Perform all work 6 inches inside the hood.
  • Position work supplies in their order of use, with those most frequently used near the front of the hood, but not closer than 6 inches from the face of the hood.
  • Place equipment on approved elevated turntables for easy retrieval.
  • Use diffused lighting to limit glare.
  • Take short breaks to stretch muscles and relieve forearm and wrist pressure.
  • Adjust chair/stool to a height that allows the shoulders to relax.