Top Laboratory Stressors

Most jobs are stressful in one way or another and lab workers are no exception. In fact, when it comes to the body they may be the rule as many lab positions require repetitive motions for long periods of time. In addition, misuse of the body within these repetitive motions only adds to the stress. In an effort to understand and hopefully minimize lab stress and employee turnover, here are the top stressors and how to combat them effectively.

Repetitive motions within a lab setting are extremely common. Pipetting leads to the overuse of the thumb, fingers and wrist and working with a fume hood can lead to issues with the hands, wrists and forearms. Repetition is difficult to combat and often cannot be avoided. So the best way to reduce repetition injuries is through proper body mechanics and frequent breaks. Keep the wrists and forearms in a relaxed position and take time periodically to stop, stretch out the thumb and fingers and shake out the hands. By maintaining a healthy supply of blood flow, overuse injuries can be avoided. Stretching will also increase muscle, tendon and ligament pliability which will prevent muscles cramps and spasms.

Misuse injuries are common and difficult to combat because if you’re not informed about proper body mechanics you could be doing something wrong and not know it until the pain comes. Misuse is a huge laboratory stressor because combined with repetitive motion, misuse can create a world of problems. To avoid misusing your body, pay attention to the body parts that you’re not using at the time. For instance, if you’re standing at a microscope for a long period of time, check your elbows, forearms and wrists to ensure that they’re relaxed and if possible resting on the table. Keep your neck as straight as possible to avoid slouching and stand erect, bending at the waist rather than the shoulders.

Ergonomics are especially important for reducing lab stressors. Simply by sitting in the correct chair, you can effectively reduce overall body fatigue that leads to misuse and repetitive motion injuries. Sitting in a chair that curves downward in the front reduces leg fatigue and ones with lower lumbar support help keep the body erect and in proper posture. Just because you’re sitting doesn’t mean the body is as relaxed as it could be. By simply adjust the lumbar support and height of the chair you can maximize comfort and reduce body stress.

It’s extremely simple to fall into bad habits and improper body mechanics. If the muscles being utilized aren’t strong enough, say, in the back then slouching occurs. Only when it becomes a problem do people notice and sometimes it’s too late. But by paying attention to your body movements and using ergonomically designed seating you can effectively reduce most major lab stressors.