7 Common Health Issues Caused By Poor Laboratory Ergonomics

Measuring, mixing, and examining laboratory projects based on safe and standardized guidelines demand that one practices certain postures or do actions repeatedly. Such demand for good laboratory table and furniture ergonomics. Otherwise, traumatic injuries may accumulate. 

Ergonomics: What is It and Why is It Important?

Ergonomics combines the design and function of tools and workstations to create a suitable work environment.

The principle provides guidelines to prevent illness and injury. Smart and well-thought-out constructions ensure safe executions of tasks and get rid of the negative impact of risk factors posed by poor lab table heights and work benches.

Here are some examples of such common ergonomic risk factors:

  • Awkward body postures – sustained holding of a position, particularly in the neck, back, wrists, hands, and arms
  • Repetition – performing one motion over and over again
  • Extreme temperatures – prolonged exposure to extreme heat and coldness may cause loss of dexterity
  • Force – physical exertion applied by the body to carry out tasks such as pushing, pulling, lifting, and gripping
  • Contact stress – pressure on soft tissues of the body such as in the palm, sides of fingers, or wrists
  • Cumulative trauma injuries (CTI) – manifested by pain, stiffness, cramping, numbness, tingling sensation, or loose grip

Common Health Issues Relating to Poor Ergonomics

1. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders or injuries are painful and, sometimes, debilitating conditions affecting the muscles, nerves, and tendons. Here are some of the most common conditions resulting from poor lab ergonomics:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) – affects the nerves in the wrist after repetitive pressure on it. It gives the feeling of numbness, sharp pain, and tingling. Worst cases affect mobility and cause partial paralysis.
  • Bursitis – is the inflammation of the small fluid sac lubricating the areas between bones, tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It causes pain and swelling in the knee, shoulder, or elbow. It also results from repetitive movements on the affected connections.
  • Tendonitis – is the inflammation of the strong fibers connecting the bones and muscles. It results from bad posture. The most commonly affected areas are the ankle, shoulder, wrist, kneecap, and elbow.
  • Muscle Strains – back, shoulder, or neck pain resulting from overstretching the muscles in those areas

2. Back Injuries

Poor furniture and equipment ergonomics in the laboratory can affect one even in the most minute ways.

For example, consistently sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause strain on the back. Lab tables and workbenches should be constructed in a way that will permit one to assume a position without causing too much pressure on a body part.

3. Stiff Neck

A stiff neck does not only come from sleeping in the wrong position. It may also come from keeping the neck in a rigid position while measuring solutions or typing data on a computer.

4. Headache and Migraine

Extremely bright or dim lighting on the computer screen or the room can cause headaches. It may also cause fatigue and eye strain.

The same goes for poor posture. Mechanical forces stress the muscles, ligaments, and fascia in the back and neck—causing pain on the temples, forehead, and other parts of the head. They also hinder good circulation around the body, preventing oxygen from being properly delivered to the extremities.

5. Eye Strain

Poor lighting in the lab can strain the eyes, and this applies to both extreme brightness and dimness.

While pausing every 20 minutes to look 20 meters away helps, one who consistently works in such an environment may still experience redness, dryness, or itchiness of the eyes.

This is because the muscles and nerves of the eyes are forced to adjust with a stressing response, as in squinting or focusing on a small object for a long period.

6. Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts are hard, pea-sized lumps that develop on the joints or tendon sheaths of the wrists, base of the fingers, and the back of the hands.

They appear from continued strain on the nerves of such body parts. Their presence can cause discomfort and pain as they can end up pinching a nerve, and the only option for removal is surgery, but there is no guarantee they will not return.

7. Trigger Finger

A trigger finger results from repetitive movements or strong grips. It is manifested by sharp pain and difficulty in movement of the finger caused by inflammation of tendons and tendon sheaths in the fingers.

How to Prevent Health Conditions from Poor Lab Ergonomics

  • Use adjustable chairs or stools with backrests. Use the backrest to support your posture when it feels strained or stiff. Make sure your feet are rested on the floor. If not, lower the seat. If you’re on the short side, consider getting a footrest.
  • Keep frequently used items within close reach to prevent having to overstretch your muscles frequently. It would be helpful to have cabinets and racks at eye level.
  • Shift positions when working for long hours. Find time to pause and relax and stretch your wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, back, hips, legs, and feet.
  • Use lab equipment that is the right size for your hand or body built. Also, use padding when utilizing equipment with semi-pointed edges to minimize pressure on the muscles.
  • Store heavy items on lower shelves.
  • Make sure you have the lab table height.
  • Ensure proper lighting inside the laboratory.
  • Make sure all lab equipment is clean and in good working condition to minimize repetitive or forceful turning, twisting, and pinching. 

Prevent Health Issues with Good Ergonomics in the Lab

It is easy to spot the bad effects of poor ergonomics on one’s health. Luckily, setting up a lab workstation does not have to be a difficult task. All you need is proper planning and selection of equipment.

And if you’re no expert in the field, we can give you a hand. Our years of expertise in laboratory furniture and equipment manufacturing can guarantee multifunctional and ergonomic workstations. We have a wide range of designs at reasonable a lab table price you can choose from.

Failing to protect one’s self from the consequences of poor ergonomics can result in far-reaching results. One can be skilled and knowledgeable in working in the lab, but an uncomfortable environment can be detrimental to body circulation, muscle strength, and nerve well-being.

Have you suffered from any health condition as a result of poor ergonomics in the laboratory? If yes, what changes do you think should be made to prevent it from happening again? Let’s talk in the comments section!

You can also learn more about lab tables and work benches with the help of our experts, contact us at Lab Tech Supply Co today.

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