Stanford University

Lab Ergonomic Tips

How to use this tool

When To Get Help

  • Report any injury or recurring discomfort to your supervisor
  • File forms with Risk Management (SU-17, DWC-1, Cal-OSHA 5020)
  • Contact EH&S for additional follow-up (6-4392)


  • Attend training
  • Use recommended work practices and equipment
  • Report discomfort or pain to your supervisor
  • Inform supervisor of and comply with medical treatment recommendations
  • Evaluate employees’ compliance with safe work practices (with EH&S assistance)
  • Provide necessary support in helping make ergonomic improvements in the lab
  • Report employee injuries to Risk Management (3-7400) and EH&S (5-3209)
  • Accommodate employee work restrictions by doctor
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate the Ergonomics Program
  • Provide Laboratory Ergonomics training and technical assistance with task evaluations
  • Analyze and report trends in ergonomic injuries


  • Your supervisor
  • EH&S (6-4392)
  • Risk Management (3-7400)
    • SU-17, DWC-1, Cal/OSHA 5020 Forms
  • Stanford University Occupational Health Center (725-5308)
    • Medical surveillance
  • Stanford Wellness
    • Exercise programs and facilities
  • HIP
    • Exercise/wellness programs
Task Body positions/ postures Work Practices/ Processes Proper equipment
Task Body positions/ postures Work Practices/ Processes Proper equipment

  • Feet should rest flat on the floor or a footrest
  • Chair should provide adequate low back and thigh support
  • Front edge of chair should not press up against back of knees.

  • Avoid sitting at the edge of the seat sit all the way back into the seat to provide back support
  • Get out of chair at least every half hour to help relieve stress on back
  • Before starting work make sure chair is properly adjusted.

  • Use a footrest if feet do not reach the floor
  • If back support is not adequate or if the seat pan is too long try a rolled up towel or a back support cushion to provide support.
  • Remove or adjust armrests that hinder work activities

  • Maintain straight wrists
  • Keep elbows close to body

  • Keep waste bins beakers etc. as close as possible
  • Take frequent microbreaks away from pipetting (at least every 15-30 minutes)
  • Share workload between right and left hands
  • Rotate pipetting tasks with other employees as feasible
  • Occasionally alternate activities to avoid continuous pipetting for long periods

  • Use shorter pipetters and pipette tips
  • Choose pipetters that require minimal hand and finger effort
  • For highly repetitive jobs utilize automated processes or multi-channel pipetters where feasible.
  • See seating
Test Tube Handling

  • Maintain straight wrists
  • Work w/ elbows close to body
  • Avoid reaching upward or stooping low

  • Arrange tubes to minimize reaching/ twisting
  • Share workload between right and left hands
  • Take adequate breaks away from handling activity (even short several second “micro-breaks” help
  • Use both hands to open tubes

  • Use upside-down containers to raise tube racks when needed
  • Use vortexer mixer rack instead of holding tubes by hand
  • Use cap removers to help minimize pinch gripping
  • To avoid forearms resting on sharp edges pad edges or use a cushion to pad forearm.
Microscope Use

  • Maintain straight wrists
  • Avoid tilted head/ neck postures

  • Take frequent microbreaks to rest eyes (momentarily close eyes or focus on far away objects to vary focal length)
  • Keep scopes clean and in good condition
  • Spread microscope work throughout the day or rotate microscope work among several employees as feasible

  • Raise and stand microscope at a slight tilt to allow a more upright head/neck posture
  • To avoid forearms resting on sharp edges pad edges or use a cushion to pad forearm.
  • See seating (above)
Hand Tool Use

  • Maintain straight wrists
  • Avoid pinch gripping tools when possible

  • Take occasional microbreaks away from tool use (at least every 15-30 minutes)
  • Share workload between right and left hands

  • Choose the right tool for the job
  • Ensure tools are in proper working order
  • Increase size of tool handles where possible to minimize gripping effort
General Work Tips

  • Minimize use of awkward body postures

  • For any continuous/repetitive task take frequent microbreaks away from the primary activity
  • Arrange work scheduling to allow occasional alternating of tasks
  • Rotate tasks intermittently between left and right hands to avoid overuse of any one side
  • For highly continuous/repetitive tasks consider a rotation of employees to help safely distribute workload

  • When purchasing equipment models that adjust in size are preferable
  • Use the proper equipment for the task
  • Know how to properly use the equipment
  • Where feasible use automated processes to reduce/ eliminate high repetition or forces
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