Ergonomics plays a key role for the workers in your lab. It allows them to be more efficient, which means that your lab design, including lab furniture, must be conscious of how your workers do their jobs.
What is Ergonomics?
The goal of ergonomics is to promote productivity and efficiency so that the design of the lab, including equipment, work layouts, and even work environments, match the particular jobs of the employees. It also means that differences in tasks and body sizes should be accommodated, so job hassle, soreness, and potential injury are avoided.
Consider the average office worker. They sit in their chair for about 8 hours a day, at least, and often with poor posture. These awkward postures may stress joints and reduce blood flow, which, in the long run, can put a damper on the worker’s ability to do their job productively.
Other problems that can cause ergonomic injuries are high forces like pushing and pulling carts and lifting boxes. Long durations of awkward postures and forces can further the potential for joint damage.
There are also physical stressors that can impact an employees ability to get their job done efficiently, including:
- Machine vibration
- Low temperatures
- Impact stress
- Gloves that reduce blood flow
Improving the Ergonomics of Workstations
Poor posture can cause back and neck pain in a lab. Poor posture can lead to strain injuries and musculoskeletal problems. Over time, this can impact an employee’s efficiency.
By practicing good posture, employees can prevent injury and put the least strain on their bodies while sitting or standing at their workstations. When it comes to lab casework, it’s important to make sure the measurements are correct to ensure the right posture for your employees.
For those employees who sit most of their day, having a chair with lumbar and neck support is crucial. A chair with these features can reduce the risk of lower back injury and neck strain. An ergonomic chair will allow workers to adjust the lumbar support and maintain the natural curve of their spines.
When it comes to posture, lab workstations are one of the places in the lab where awkward positions are necessary.
For example, microscopes, fume hoods, and pipettes may all be used at a lab bench. Looking into a microscope means bending into an awkward position, which puts a strain on the back and neck. Fume hoods require you to reach up on your toes to work the controls, and you must crouch to see the table at eye level in order to titrate with pipettes.
And it isn’t just handling chemicals – administrative tasks are frequently at workstations too. Technicians must also accomplish paperwork, inventory materials, and enter data into computers here as well. Quick tasks can be done standing up, but if you need to spend an hour or more on the job, it’s advisable that you sit down.
When it comes to improving the ergonomics of your workstation, an adjustable laboratory workbench is essential. Adjustable lab furniture allow lab technicians to increase or decrease the height of their workstation depending on their needs. This allows for less awkward positioning and increased comfort and efficiency.
Working with a computer is necessary for most laboratory settings. However, working on a computer for hours at a time can create back and neck strain. Our bodies must often contort to use the dedicated space for the computer, and our necks may have to stretch to see the monitor better.
With LCD arms, workers can adjust their monitors according to their comfort preferences. LCD arms hold monitors either on the work surface or on a rail, which means computers can be moved out of the way when not in use.
By adjusting the height and distance of the monitor, you can reduce eye, shoulder, arm, and neck fatigue. Monitors should be positioned about an arm’s length away, and the height should be adjusted according to your height. Your eyes should look slightly downward when looking at the middle of the screen.
Keyboard and Mouse Placement
Both the keyboard and the mouse should be placed depending on the natural position of the employee. They should also be at the same height as the elbows and forearms to help prevent strain and wrist nerve compression.
Workers may need to adjust the height of the chair or the desk to put them in a more relaxed and comfortable position. However, the less strain on their body, the more efficiently they can work.
The human body was not designed to sit or stand in the same position for a long period of time. Taking short breaks can help reduce straight and improve overall productivity.
When deeply absorbed in work, employees can lose track of time, so it’s up to you to implement initiatives to remind them to change posture periodically.
You can post signs, set alarms, or assign someone to remind the team to give their body a break at regular intervals.
Rest Your Eyes: When working on a computer, look away every 15 minutes for 60 seconds to give them a rest from the screen. You can also try closing your eyes and massaging your eyeballs with the heel of your hand to relax the eye muscles.
Rest Your Hands: Take a break from typing to rest your hands every so often. Do some arm stretches and shake your wrists out to loosen tense muscles.
Rest Your Body: Every hour, make sure to take a break from working at your station. Stand up, stretch, and walk around to get the blood flowing. This will also help wake you up if you’re feeling fatigued.
Workstations should always be spacious. Not only do lab technicians have multiple pieces of equipment and paperwork out at one time, but they also need to be able to move around without getting strain.
With an adequate amount of space, workers can more easily spread their work out in their workstations and maintain correct posture. Being able to arrange their work in a way that’s efficient for them will also help keep them alert and productive.
Space should also extend into the room itself. If the lab is small, it may be worth it to buy custom lab furniture that allows for the ergonomic designs and dimensions. Free movement within a workspace is crucial to ensuring both comfort and productivity.