Researchers and laboratory workers can be exposed to similar ergonomic risk factors to those who utilise computers for extended periods.

Ergonomic risk factors in laboratories may include:

  • awkward and sustained postures
  • high repetition
  • excessive force.

Microscope, pipetting and cryostat/microtome work

Using a microscope, pipetting, and performing cryostat/microtome work for extended periods can result in muscular strain to the neck, shoulders, lower back, eyes, arms, and wrists. To minimise muscular strain as an outcome of potential sustained or repetitive postures and to maintain an appropriate posture, consider the below:

  • The bench height enables work to be performed in a neutral posture with relaxed shoulders.
  • If the task must be performed seated, ensure:
    • There is adequate clearance under the bench surface to allow the operator to sit close to the equipment without restriction (if not, consider whether the task is best-performed standing).
    • A height-adjustable chair is used with adequate back support.
    • Feet are flat on the floor or supported by a footrest.
    • Elbows remain close to the body and at right angles.
    • Neck, shoulders, and wrists are maintained in neutral positions.
    • The microscope is positioned close to the work surface edge, which will assist the operator in maintaining an upright posture.
    • The viewing height and angle of the microscope is adjusted for the operator.
    • Materials (vials, samples, instruments, etc.) are positioned within easy reach to avoid unnecessary reaching and/or stretching.
    • Limit work periods in non-neutral positions and rotate between tasks, where possible.
    • Take regular stretch/pause breaks.
    • Use alternative mechanisms such as video equipment to display the microscope image, or foot-operated cryostats.
    • Work in pairs when completing counting (i.e. one person counts, the other records).
    • Purchase ergonomically designed equipment e.g. ergonomic pipettes; shorter pipettes; instruments that avoid repetitive and/or sustained use of the body in non-neutral postures or reduce the application of repetitive, sustained, high or sudden force or vibration.

Fume hoods and biosafety cabinets

Similar hazards exist when using fume hoods and biosafety cabinets. It is difficult to adjust standing and seating arrangements at these locations, so it is important to reduce the length of time you are using such equipment, especially if seated, by:

  • reducing the amount of work you load into the cabinet
  • rotatating tasks where possible
  • taking regular stretch/pause breaks
  • alternating between sitting and standing
  • taking frequent breaks away from the equipment.