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Occupational Health


Ergonomics is the science of making machines and systems fit the user, and not making the user fit the system. Ergonomics incorporates elements from many subjects including anatomy, physiology, psychology and design to ensure that products and environments are comfortable, safe and efficient for people to use.

The term upper-limb disorder (ULD) is an umbrella term that refers to health related problems effecting the shoulder, neck and arm, including the forearm, elbow, wrist, hands and fingers.

If time is spent assessing and ensuring that the ergonomics associated with a job role are suitable and sufficient for the worker from the outset then the risk of health problems can be significantly reduced.

Laboratories are a particular area that may require prolonged exposure to repetitive task such as pipette, microscope as well as lifting, carrying and moving heavy items



Prolonged use of pipettes can cause painful and disabling upper limb conditions that could prevent an employee from temporarily continuing some of their laboratory tasks.

Preventing the risk

Symptoms can be prevented by improving the workstation set-up and ones posture as well as increased rest breaks, improved job design and equipment

Detailed pipette work guidance should be followed to help reduce the risk of upper limb problems.  The pipette information leaflet has also provides laboratory staff with information on correct posture, work design and organisation, to prevent musculoskeletal problems associated with pipette work

If musculoskeletal symptoms develop, the amount of pipette work should be reduced or, where possible, a break from pipette work taken for a few days. If symptoms persist or recur then contact your general practitioner (GP) and Occupational Health (OH) for advice. OH can assist by carrying out a full health assessment and give specific advice in relation to the presenting problem as well as the work environment.  Where indicted an Occupational Health Adviser (OHA) may visit the workplace to observe your work activities. The aim of the visit will be to make recommendations [to you and your supervisor] with regards any necessary workplace modifications, e.g. posture and/or work environment.

Microscope work

Stooping for hours over a microscope eyepiece can lead to neck, shoulder, back, arms and wrist problems.

Preventing the risk

The microscope information leaflet provides guidance on work and equipment design to help reduce the risk of health problems occurring.

Fume cupboards and safety cabinets

Fume cupboards and safety cabinets can present ergonomic hazards that are generally associated with insufficient leg room, poor and prolonged static posture. Many are poorly designed from an ergonomic perspective, making them difficult and inefficient to use and giving rise to awkward and uncomfortable working postures that can result in musculoskeletal problems for the workers.

Preventing the risk

The following guidance provides useful information.