Safety and Ergonomics
It is important to report any injuries or symptoms to your health care provider or lab safety officer. In addition, follow these best practices for optimum safety and performance while pipetting:
Establish a Bench Top Comfort Zone
Place the most-used equipment and materials within easy reach, no more than 15 inches away and adjust your chair to an appropriate height to prevent leaning or excessive arm raise. Minimize reaching by placing items that are used less often, like stock reagents and consumables, to within 24” of your reach.
When sitting, ensure that you have leg room with your legs positioned at a 90 ° angle with your back supported. Be sure to avoid any twisting or leaning.
Keep shoulders relaxed and elbows close to your sides when working. Maintain a neutral or aligned wrist and arm posture when working. Avoid forceful twisting and turning motions and work with the wrist in a neutral or straight position (“hand-shake” position).
At all times, avoid a “winged” pipetting technique. Using an upper arm angle of 30° is ideal (where the arm is closer to the side of the body); this lends 100% arm strength to the job and lowers the risk of shoulder strain. When your arm is angled at 90° (nearly at shoulder level) arm strength is reduced to 83% and at 150° (above shoulder level) your strength is reduced to 60% which makes you more susceptible to injury.
Use light pressure when pipetting and be aware of the force you are using to mount and eject pipette tips. Tips engineered for the lightest insertion and ejection forces are the best type for overall reduced muscle work. Use lightweight, ergonomically-designed pipette models whenever possible.
Use Ergonomic Tools for Pipetting
If you must rest your elbow on a surface while working, use an elbow pad. An arm sleeve with elbow pad may be worn for support. If standing, stand on an anti-fatigue floor mat. Use ergonomic tools such as tube-cap openers to lessen strain on the thumbs.
Hand Exercises and Upper Quadrant Stretches
Stretching exercises are always a best practice for preventing RSI injury. Even as little as 20 seconds of stretching after 20 minutes of continuous pipetting can have a positive impact. Using the hand exercises and stretches that can be found at www.rsitips.com/rsi-prevention-exercises will keep your muscles flexible, release strain and prime your hands, wrists and shoulders for more comfortable liquid handling.
Ergonomic safety and best practices, when combined with proper pipetting technique and tools, will contribute to accuracy, precision, safety and comfort while performing pipetting in the lab. Refer to the article “Liquid Handling Tips” for further discussion of proper pipetting technique. Also, be sure to check out the infographic "For Laboratory Technicians, the Risk is Real".