Office of Emergency Management | Environment, Health & Safety | Ergonomics |

Tips for Working in a Lab

Activities conducted in a lab, such as using pipettes and microscopes 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • Do not push 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.


(Source: UCLA)
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