Repetitive strain injuries are an occupational hazard in any lab or research center. An estimated 90 percent of researchers report pain after pipetting for an hour or longer, leaving them at risk of developing chronic injuries or nerve damage.  TTE Laboratories is happy to assist scientists who call in to our office to ask about more ergonomic, lighter pipettes, but often times, they call after the damage has already been done.

Pipetting is an important daily task for most researchers. So, what can you do to reduce the chances of an injury? Read on to learn more.

Use the Right Tools

It only makes sense that the pipette itself plays a role in preventing repetitive strain injuries in the lab. If you’re considering upgrading your current pipette to a newer, ergonomically designed model, you should consider:

  • Operating pressure: The more force it takes to operate a pipette, the more strain you are putting on your wrist and hand, particularly your thumb. Trading an older manual pipette in for an ergonomic electronic model can make a big difference in the amount of work required to perform basic laboratory tasks. Also make sure pipette tips are certified to match the instrument, as this will reduce required insertion and ejection forces, and guarantee the best results.
  • Weight and Results: While electronic pipettes require less pressure to operate, the misconception is that most models are heavier than their manual counterparts. This is no longer true! Many newer electronics actually weigh just as much or less than manual pipettes. Look for a lightweight model and don’t hesitate to pay extra for a pipette that is easier to handle, AND more accurate! The long-term benefits to your health and results make it a worthwhile investment.
  • Layout: The best pipettes put the controls you need right at your fingertips, minimizing the amount of movement and strain required to operate them. The newest electronics are as easy to operate as a new cellphone. When shopping for a new pipette, don’t be afraid to move to electronics. They are more user-friendly than they were 10 years ago!
  • TTE Laboratories Inc. carries many ergonomic pipettes that reduce stress and strain. Contact a sales representative for help choosing the best model for you. We’ll allow you to demo a variety of the best models before you buy, so you don’t purchase something you end up rejecting.

Practice Proper Pipette Technique

Even the best pipettes can cause pain and injury over time if you don’t use them properly. Though these tips are perceived to be common knowledge and simple, many scientists don’t put these tips to practice until pain teaches them otherwise! Some of the best ways to improve your technique include:

  • Correcting your posture: Sitting or standing up straight builds stronger back muscles, reduces pain and helps you avoid headaches and other issues that affect your productivity.
  • Adjusting your chair height: Work at a height that keeps your limbs relaxed and makes it easy to accomplish pipetting tasks with a minimal amount of movement. As the nature of your job changes over the course of the day, it may be necessary to adjust your chair height. You should not be reaching!
  • Making sure you have enough room. A cramped lab bench is highly conducive to repetitive stress injuries. Be sure your legs and arms can rest in a neutral position, and you aren’t hunched over while working.
  • Keeping your wrist straight. Your wrist bears most of the stress of operating a pipette. Make sure it stays straight up, not bent or tilted, while you work.

Work Smart and Stay Organized

Finally, spending a few minutes getting your space organized can help prevent injury. The more streamlined your work is, the less chance of injury you have. Remove clutter, keep everything you need within an arm’s length and limit the length of your pipetting sessions.

How do you prevent injuries while at work? Let us know in the comments below.