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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

Lab Ergonomics

The practice of ergonomic principles in the Laboratory environment can help prevent injuries. Check below to find out how to protect yourself from injury.


Use pipettes with newer trigger mechanisms requiring less force to activate, and use the pointer finger to aspirate and the thumb to dispense.
  • Use pipettes that fit comfortably in the user's hand.
  • Use an electronic operated or a latch-mode pipetter to replace manual plunger-operated pipettes.
  • Use an electronic pipettor with mixing functions for tasks such as mixing or aliquotting.
  • Use a multichannel pipettor for large aliquotting tasks.
  • Use thin-walled pipette tips that are easy to eject.
  • Take micro-breaks of 2 minutes for every 20 minutes of pipetting. Mild hand exercises and stretches are beneficial.
  • Clean pipettors on a scheduled basis; (this reduces &quotsticking&quot and improves quality of work).
  • Work with arms close to the body.
  • Don't elevate your arm without support for lengthy periods.
  • Keep samples and instruments within easy reach.
  • Rotate pipetting activities between laboratory tasks, hands, and people.    


Several types of syringes exist. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Semi-automatic self-refilling syringe with spring-loaded plunger
  • Automatic syringe
  • Poultry syringe

Experiment with different types of syringes to determine which syringe works best for you and the work being performed. It may be necessary to use a different type of syringe based on the task.

Refer to the Pipetting section for additional recommendations and preventative measures when using syringes.


Pull the microscope towards the edge of the work surface to position the operator in a more upright posture.
  • Elevate the microscope. This can help position the operator in a more upright posture and reduce rounding of the shoulders and neck.
  • Adjust the eyepieces and angle of observation to prevent neck strain.
  • Use lifters and angled microscope arm supports to relieve fatigue and strain.
  • Maintain neutral spine.
  • Use an ergonomically designed chair that provides adequate back support, adjustable height, and adjustable seat angle.
  • Use armrests to support the operator's forearms while using adjustment knobs on the microscope.
  • Make sure there is adequate room under the work surface so the operator can pull the chair up to the ocular(s).
  • Provide footrests and discourage the use of foot rings on stools.
  • Provide sit-stand seats for areas where there is restricted leg room.


  • Position materials in hoods/BSCs as close as possible to avoid extended reaching.
  • Apply foam padding to the front edge of the hood/BSC to reduce contact forces with the forearm & wrists.
  • Take short breaks to relieve forearm & wrist pressure caused by leaning on front edge of hoods/BSCs.


Laboratory workbenches are at fixed heights and have been designed using general guidelines suggested by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These guidelines are as follows:

  •  Precision Work - Workbench height should be above elbow height.
  • Light Work - Workbench height should be just below elbow height.
  • Heavy Work - Workbench should be 4-6 inches below elbow height.

**Note: Remove drawers, supplies and other materials underneath workbenches to provide additional leg room.


  • Use plastic vials with fewer threads to reduce twisting motions during capping and uncapping lids.
  • Use small pieces of foam, similar to the type used on pencils and pens to prevent soreness on the fingertips, where fingers and forceps articulate.
  • Practice using forceps between the 1st and 2nd digits instead of using the thumb and the first digit. Then try alternating between the two positions.
  • Tilt storage bins toward the worker to reduce wrist flexion while reaching for supplies.


  • Use an ergonomically designed chair or stool that provides adequate back support, adjustable height, and adjustable seat angle. (Armrests may be helpful as well.)
  • Use footrests versus foot rings on stools.
  • Use sit-stand seats in areas where there is restricted leg room.
  • Use anti-fatigue matting in areas where it is necessary to stand for long periods of time.
  • Take frequent micro-breaks.
  • Vary laboratory activities/tasks.
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