Contributed by Dow Lab Safety Academy
When people talk about ergonomic issues, they often refer to things like carpal tunnel syndrome from sitting at a desk and typing. But there are also ergonomic risks associated with working in a laboratory. If you know what they are, you can take steps to minimize stress on your body and avoid injuries.
Here are four ways to improve your lab ergonomics.
1. Start with proper attire. Shoes matter, especially in a lab where hazardous materials could spill. Opt for something with a cushioned sole, closed toe, closed heel, and impervious material. Also, be sure to remove loose-fitting clothing that could interfere with your experiments
2. Pay attention to posture. Since many lab stools don’t have backs, it can be challenging to keep your back straight. But it’s important to do so, as poor posture can lead to fatigue and injury. When seated on a stool, be sure your feet are flat on the floor by adjusting your seat height to the proper level.
3. Reduce back strain when standing. Fatigue can come into play when you have to stand for long periods of time. Lab mats are an important piece of ergonomic protective equipment that can help relieve strain on the feet, legs, and back. Use one when you’ll be standing at a sink, lab, or hood for prolonged periods.
4. Embrace the mini break. When your muscles begin to get sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you to rest. Plan stretch breaks into your day after 20 minutes at any task or any time you are doing a repetitive task. Quick mini breaks or changing tasks can have a big effect.
At the first sign of discomfort, contact your local health official to address the issue. Fighting through the discomfort will lead to pain and could potentially lead to an ergonomic injury.
For more on this topic, watch the Laboratory Ergonomics video in the Orientation & Training module at the Dow Lab Safety Academy. The Dow Lab Safety Academy is a free digital learning environment that seeks to enhance awareness of safety practices in research laboratories.