Workplace ergonomics tends to be centred around office ergonomics, however laboratory ergonomics is just as important. This workplace setting poses many ergonomic risks to its users. Those who use microscopes and pipettes regularly are at risk of developing musculoskeletal problems or exacerbating pre-existing ones. Working at laboratory benches and within safety cabinets can also pose problems. Factors such as repetitive movements, forceful movements, awkward and static postures, can all contribute to the development of musculoskeletal problems. Laboratory workers can control laboratory ergonomic risk factors by taking some simple measures which can help improve comfort, productivity and reduce the chances of developing health problems.
Sitting or standing for hours on end, bent over a microscope eyepiece is not an activity for which the body is well adapted. Poor posture and awkward positioning of the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms and wrists are the primary risk factors for musculoskeletal problems that can affect microscope users.
The following are some basic guidelines for achieving and maintaining neutral body posture and reducing the risks of developing health problems while using a microscope:
Pipetting is one of the most common tasks performed by those working in laboratory settings. Again, this activity poses risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal problems. These factors include repetitive movements, forceful movements, particularly on the thumb and awkward postures which can affect the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.
The following are some basic guidelines for reducing the risks of developing health problems whilst pipetting:
Factors to consider when choosing pipettes:
Although electronic pipettes are more costly and often less versatile, they put less force on the thumb. Consider having a variety of pipettes available.
These present similar ergonomic hazards which are mainly associated with lack of leg room and static positions.
The following are some basic guidelines for reducing risks of developing health problems whilst working at safety cabinets and on work benches:
In some laboratory settings, standard office workstations are not permitted and therefore designated separate office space would be provided ideally. If computer workstations are based within a laboratory area, they should ideally be set up on standard desks and not on laboratory benches. If the latter is the only or most suitable option, it should be set up to mirror that of a standard office computer workstation. More information can be found on the DSE assessment section and the guidance on minimum workstation requirements.
It is important that users inform their management if they develop symptoms related to the use of laboratory equipment. If symptoms do not subside following adjustments to their equipment and/or practices, advice can be sought through the Occupational Health Service and users can then be referred if required. Don’t ignore symptoms!
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Protection of health at work
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