Faculty & Staff

Laboratory Ergonomics:
Pipetting

Most pipetting tasks are highly repetitive and demand hours of continuous effort. It is not uncommon to repeat aspirating and dispensing motions 1,000 times a day. The ejection motion requires the most force. The following suggestions may eliminate ergonomic risk factors while pipetting.

To reduce repetition:

  • Attach a microtube accessories to your vortexer to eliminate hand mixing with your pipettor.
  • Use pipettes where the thumb dispenses and the index finger aspirates.
  • Alternate using your right and left hand to pipette when appropriate.
  • Use ergonomic pipettes. These pipettes reduce repetition and excessive thumb force. Some manufacturers offer trade-in policies to help reduce the cost of purchasing new pipettes.
  • Set your pipetting experiments up to allow for stretch/rest breaks. Mild stretches give your muscles and tendons a rest.
  • Rotate pipetting activities with other laboratory tasks.

To reduce awkward postures:

  • Keep head, shoulders and spine aligned in a balanced position.
  • Post protocols straight ahead at eye level to prevent bending or twisting.
  • Select pipettes that are lightweight and fit comfortably in your hand.
  • Work with arms close to the body to reduce shoulder strain. To help reduce reach:
    • Use shorter pipettes.
    • Place low waste receptacles for used tips no higher than the top of the tubes being filled.
    • Use short solution containers.
    • Position frequently used items close to you.
    • Remove false fronts under the worksurface and any supplies underneath to get closer to the work at laboratory hoods.
    • Open or remove cabinet doors and pencil drawers at lab benches.
  • Use arm supports if you are performing a task that requires reaching or elevating your arm without support. Adjustable arm supports help prevent fatigue in the neck, shoulders and arms.
  • Work with wrists in a straight, neutral position.
  • Keep your work at waist level. Adjust your workstation or chair to help prevent working with your arms in an elevated position.
  • Take breaks every 20-30 minutes and change your posture and activity frequently.

To reduce excess force:

  • Select pipettes that are lightweight and fit comfortably in your hand.
  • Use de-capping devices to open the micro-tubes.
  • Clean pipettes on a regular basis.
  • Use minimal force when applying pipette tips.
  • Use thin-walled pipette tips that fit correctly and are easier to eject.
  • Use electronic or multi-channel pipettes for repetitive tasks. These pipettes reduce repetition and excessive thumb force.
  • Because the thumb is stronger, use pipettes where the thumb dispenses and the index finger aspirates.

To reduce contact stress:

  • Avoid resting forearms on sharp edges. Use padding and/or elbow pads to minimize pressure. Avoid interference with air flow at the laboratory hoods.
  • Use anti-fatigue mats when standing for long periods of time.
  • Use adjustable chairs or ergo-task stools with a footrest. Leaning or resting on the foot rings can cut off circulation in the back of your thighs. (See product information)

Next: Microscope Work
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