Laboratory Ergonomics

Employees working in a laboratory perform routine tasks such as pipetting, working at microscopes, operating microtomes, keyboarding at computer workstations, standing and/or working in awkward positions in front of laboratory hoods/safety cabinets. Lab workers can potentially incur ergonomic risks of repetitive motion injuries. Therefore, it 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.