Ergonomics is the practice of adapting a job to the person so work can be performed without harmful strain or injury. Effective ergonomics reduces discomfort and injuries, and increases job satisfaction and productivity.
As with all health and safety issues at the University, responsibility and accountability for assuring the employees' workplace meets regulatory requirements rests with each supervisor. However, ergonomic assessments can be scheduled through the Office of Human Resources. Please contact the Assistant Director of Human Resources if you are having aches and pains due to your workstation or work practices. Human Resources works closely with EHS to provide solutions to understand and treat ergonomic issues case by case. If you suspect any health or safety issues with your work environment, please report them to your supervisor as well.
Apart from the potential risk of working daily with hazardous substances, laboratory personnel also have the potential to be exposed to many ergonomic risk factors due to the nature of their work (i.e., work benches) and the research they conduct (i.e., long hours).
Ergonomic risk factors associated with laboratories are not any different from those found in the office and general industry. These factors consist of awkward and static postures, high repetition, excessive force, contact stresses, vibration and pinch grip, among others.
The following information is meant to assist laboratory personnel in controlling laboratory ergonomics risk factors, improving their level of comfort while performing their jobs and reducing the risk of acquiring occupational injuries.
When used inappropriately, laboratory workbenches can expose researchers to a variety of hazardous conditions or ergonomic risk factors depending on the laboratory procedure being used. Most workbenches at the University are at fixed heights and cannot be modified (raised or lowered). In general, they are the same height and were designed for light to slightly heavy work. Using a laboratory workbench as a computer workstation is an example of inappropriate use, since it forces the worker to assume a variety of awkward postures and may increase the likelihood of acquiring MSD. 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.
- Use a fully adjustable ergo-task chair or stool with built-in solid footrest.
- Use anti-fatigue mats if you will be standing for long periods of time while working at the laboratory workbench.
- Remove drawers, supplies and other materials underneath workbenches to provide legroom.
- Use an ergonomically designed footrest if your feet do not rest comfortably on the floor.
Please reference the OSHA Quick Card for more information.