Laboratory Ergonomics

Laboratories provide many opportunities for ergonomic stressors to manifest into injuries or repetitive stress disorders. Major ergonomic issues in the laboratory setting includes static and/or awkward postures and repetitive motions. Use this page to learn a bit more about how to mitigate these stressors.

General Tips

  • If you stand at your workstation, wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers and consider using an anti-fatigue mat. If you are seated, a highly adjustable chair or stool is recommended. Sit against the back of your chair. If your feet come off the ground, lower the chair, adjust the foot ring, or get a footrest.
  • Keep frequently used items within close reach. Most frequently used items should be at approximately a forearm’s reach away, with lesser-used items up to arm’s reach away. Items you are currently working with should be directly in front of the body.
  • Adjust the position of your work, your work surface, or your chair or stool so that you can work effectively while maintaining an upright, supported position. Avoid hunching over your work. For precision work, the work surface can be adjusted higher to provide support and reduce bending and hunching. Regular light work generally places the work surface around elbow height or just below. Heavy work places the work surface approximately six inches below elbow height.
  • Try to work at a bench cut out or a hood/BSC with adequate knee clearance. If you are seated, you need room for your legs. If you are standing, a foot rail or foot prop is recommended to encourage and aid shifting positions throughout the work day. Propping a foot up relieves pressure on the back.
  • Keep shoulders, arms and hands relaxed and elbows close to the sides while working.
  • Try to keep the wrists neutral and aligned while working. Sitting close to your work will help with this.
  • Make sure all equipment is clean and in good working order to help minimize repetitive or forceful twisting, turning, and pinching. Equipment should be the right size for your hand. Use padding and/or tubing on equipment and work area edges to reduce pressure and force while working.
  • Use the lightest pressure possible to use your equipment (e.g. pipettes). Use electronic, automated, or light touch model equipment when possible.
  • Remember to take frequent rest breaks. Alternate your grip on items like forceps. Vary your tasks.
  • Intensive tasks should be spread through the day or shared between employees when possible.
  • Ensure proper lighting for your task.
  • Store heavy items on lower shelves.
  • Use bottle dispensers and bottom dispensing carboys for dispensing liquids.

Tips For Common Laboratory Tasks


  • Ensure that you can view the eyepiece while sitting or standing in an upright position. This includes the shoulders, back and neck. Accomplish this by adjusting your chair (if applicable), the work surface, and/or the microscope eyepiece. An angle stand or extendable eye tube may be available to aid in adjustment.
  • Bring the microscope as close to you as possible (this usually means it is pulled to the edge of the workbench).
  • Arms should be supported and relaxed while using the microscope with the elbows close to the sides. Wrists should be in a neutral position while making adjustments.
  • Keep scopes repaired and clean for easier use.


  • Where possible, use electronic, light-touch, or latch mode pipettes for intensive pipetting. Multiple finger (as opposed to thumb-only) pipette designs are preferred. Use the lightest touch possible while pipetting and changing tips.
  • Work supplies such as trays and beakers should be placed within easy reach and with no obstructions to their access. Keep work in front of the body to minimize twisting and awkward reaching.
  • Strive for straight and neutral wrist position while working.
  • Try alternating hands or using both hands to pipet.
  • Use low profile tubes, containers, and receptacles to avoid bending and twisting of the wrists, neck, and rolled shoulders.
  • Avoid working with winged elbows/arms. Keep arms relaxed and elbows close to the body. Ensure that your work surface is at the appropriate height (see general tips, above).
  • Keep head and shoulders in an upright, neutral position.

Hoods and Biological Safety Cabinets

  • Keep arms relaxed and by the sides. Back, shoulders and neck should be upright and neutral in position.
  • Keep the sash clean and free of glare so that you can see without tilting your neck or assuming an awkward position. Use diffused lighting to limit glare.
  • Use low profile tubes, containers, and receptacles to avoid bending and twisting of the wrists, neck, and rolled shoulders.
  • Keep the work area clean and free of clutter. Keep what you are working on directly in front of you, with frequently accessed items within forearm length and lesser-used items at arm’s length. Remove unnecessary supplies.
  • Perform all work 6 inches inside the hood.
  • Strive to keep wrists straight and neutral while working.
  • Avoid contact pressure (forearm and wrists in contact with sharp edges). Foam padding may be used on the front sharp edge of the hood/BSC.


  • Place the microtome at the appropriate height for work (see general tips, above).
  • Avoid contact pressure (forearm and wrists in contact with sharp edges). Foam padding or padded arm supports may be used to reduce sharp edges.
  • Use as little force as possible when turning the handwheel. When possible, replace manual rotary microtomes with automatic ones, especially for high-intensity work.
  • Operate the microtome with the hand in a pistol grip position (wrist aligned with forearm in handshake position).
  • Ensure that the microtome can be operated in an upright position with back, shoulders, and neck in neutral positions.
  • Keep arms close to the sides.

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