Laboratory Ergonomics

The laboratory is a unique work environment and ergonomic risk factors are present from a number of activities, especially the repetitive nature of pipetting. Pipetting commonly affects the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders, with carpal tunnel syndrome being one of several potential conditions resulting from long-term repetitive pipetting.

Tissue culture activities often involve the use of serological pipettes, combined with working at a Biosafety cabinet, which is usually a nonadjustable immovable work station. The evaluations follow the same protocols as with the office or industrial setting, where workstation products and accessories are evaluated along with risk factors from employee’s computer workstations and other personal risk factors.

Working with micropipetters poses somewhat different risk factors, and understanding lab work is an important step in addressing and resolving symptoms leading to ergonomic injuries.

Other tasks and lab practices known to pose repetitive risk factors include:

  • Cryostat
  • Microscopy
  • Darkroom and low-level lighting

As with many musculoskeletal injuries, these are cumulative, and can be devastating to both the injured employee and the company. Imagine losing a key employee at a critical stage for FDA submissions such or collaborator’s milestone deadlines. Always encourage employees to report strains and minor discomfort at the time these symptoms first appear in order to circumvent the potential for long-term injury.

ARC Enterprises has developed lab ergonomic programs for over 15 years, and has worked with industry and insurance companies to resolve risk factors and prevent injuries from lab activities.

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