DePaul University Environmental Health and Safety > Ergonomics > Lab Ergo > Tips for Laboratory Workers

Tips for Laboratory Workers

Many tasks performed in research laboratories place workers at risk of muscle and joint aches and strains. Activities such as using pipettes, microscopes, microtomes, and centrifuges can put stress on your body. Use the following tips to lower your exposure to risk:

Be Aware of Your Posture

  • Sit against the back of your chair. If you sit back and your feet dangle, lower the chair or adjust the foot ring or get a footrest.
  • Try tilting the seat forward or use a seat wedge to work in a forward posture without leaning or jutting your head forward.
  • Always try to work at a bench cut out. Cut outs can help you get close to your work while sitting against the back of your chair.
  • Don't jut your chin forward when working. Adjust the position of your work, the work surface, or the chair to sit in an upright, supported position.
  • Keep frequently used trays and supplies within close reach.
  • If standing for long periods, use supportive shoes and cushioned mats.

Keep Arms and Hands Relaxed

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your sides when working. Avoid reaching out to use instruments and work materials.
  • Maintain neutral or aligned wrist and arm postures when working. Sit close to your work area, keep objects close, and adjust your chair to match the height of the bench.
  • Avoid repetitive or forceful twisting and turning motions (i.e. opening valves or adjusting microscopes). Make sure valves and knobs are clean and in good working order.
  • Work with your wrist in a neutral or straight position as if you were shaking hands with someone.
  • Use light pressure when performing tasks such as pipetting.
  • Use electronic pipettes or light touch models whenever possible.
  • Select equipment and tools that are the right size for your hand.
  • Use padding and tubing to reduce pressure and force when working. For example, use rubber tubing on forceps to increase diameter and reduce pinch force. Soften sharp edges on work surfaces with padding.
  • Use thin, flexible gloves that fit properly. Ill fitting and poorly designed gloves increase pinch and grip forces when working.

AVOID STATIC POSITIONS

  • Weight shift often when standing to work. Use a stool or shelf to prop up a foot to relieve pressure on your back.
  • If standing in one spot for long periods, use cushioned floor mats or shoes with good support.
  • Alternate how you hold objects like forceps. Switch holding with the thumb and index finger, and the index and middle fingers to vary the task.
  • Vary activities. Change your position and take breaks every 20 minutes to rest muscles to rest and increase blood flow and circulation.
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