• Facility Support Services
  • Occupational Safety & Risk Management
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  • Lab 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

    Be Aware of Your Posture
    • 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 Arms and Hands Relaxed
    • 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.
    Avoid static positions
    • 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
    Pipetting Tips
    • 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.
    Microscope Tips
    • 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.
    Lab Hoods & Safety Cabinet Tips
    • 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.