Laboratory personnel are exposed to a high risk of injury due to repetitive movements during normal lab procedures like pipetting, microscope use, operating microtomes, using cell counters and video display terminals.  This type of injury develops with time and it happens when the muscles and joints are stressed, tendons are swollen, nerves are pinched, and blood flow is restricted.  Another health risk for lab workers comes with standing and working in uncomfortable positions in lab hoods and biological safety cabinets.

Here we show you several ways to control some of these risk factors and to ensure your personnel is working in a comfortable, productive, and safe lab environment.

1.    Pipetting

This task involves various ergonomic strains like thumb force, repetitive movements, and awkward postures of the wrists, arms, and shoulders.  In order to alleviate these hazards follow these tips:

–    Use pipettes that fit comfortably in the user’s hand and that have triggers that need less force to be activated. Also, aspirate with the pointer finger and dispense with the thumb.

–    Use an electric pipette with mixing function to mix and aliquot, and use multichannel pipettors for big aliquot jobs.

–    Use shorter pipettes that decrease hand elevation.

–    Use low profile waste containers for used tips.

–    Take 3-5 minute breaks for every 20-30 minutes of pipetting, exercise and stretch your hands and arms while resting.

–    Clean pipetters regularly.

–    Adjust the workstation so that the employee can work with arms close to the body.

–    Rotate pipetting with other lab tasks and people.

–    Use thin wall pipette tips that fit correctly and eject easily, and use minimal force when applying them.

–    Maintain samples and instruments within easy reach.

–    Use an adjustable chair when sitting at a lab bench.

–    Use anti-fatigue mats when you need to stand for an extended period while pipetting.

2.    Computer workstation
Some researchers spend long hours entering data with a keyboard and mouse over a very high bench, making the person elevate the arms excessively.  This is what you need to do:

–    Install adjustable keyboard trays under the benches, and monitors at viewing distance between 18 and 30″ and with top of screen at eye level.

–    Locate computers away from doors, entrances, and passageways.

–    Use adjustable seating.

–    Hold documents adjacent to and in the same plane as the screen.

–    Install footrests.

–    Offer different keyboards and mouse attachments for personnel with muscle problems.

–    Order 2-5 minute breaks for every 20-30 minutes of computer use.

–    Do not go from keyboarding to pipetting or vice versa without resting at least 15 minutes.

3.    Microscopy
Microscopy workstations must be adjustable to fit every size of person:

–    Don’t use a microscope for more than 5 hours per day.

–    Locate the microscope on the edge of the table to achieve an upright position.

–    Use a cut-out work table.

–    Elevate the microscope and place it at an angle at which you can look directly into the eyepiece.

–    Keep neutral spine.

–    Give armrests for while using the adjustment knobs.

–    Use an ergonomic chair with good back support.

–    Ensure there is enough room under the table so that the person can pull the chair up to the ocular.

–    Install footrests and avoid foot rings on stools.

–    Provide sit-stand seats for areas with little leg room.

–    Order regular breaks.

–    Use television systems instead of binocular eyepieces.

4.    Overhead Lifting
Lack of space can force you to store equipment and supplies on overhead shelves, if this is so, follow these tips:

–    Store heavy objects on lower shelves.

–    Use a stable stool or ladder to reach overhead shelves.

–    Do not twist while you lift.

–    Use rotating carrousels to store materials close to the worker.

The well being of personnel is vital for the good functioning of any laboratory.  Any pharmaceutical consultant will agree that people are a pharmaceutical company’s strongest asset; by caring for their health you are taking your company far ahead in the market.

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