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Laboratory Ergonomics for a Healthy and Safe Workplace

Laboratory Ergonomics for a Healthy and Safe Workplace


Working in laboratories means we often undergo tasks that require us to be stagnant for long periods of time, sometimes in rather awkward positions. This can unfortunately result in injuries and/or stress disorders that can be persistent. However, having proper laboratory ergonomics readily available is the best way to prevent such injuries from occurring.


What Are Laboratory Ergonomics ? 

Laboratory ergonomic principles were designed to minimize the injuries and stress disorders that manifest as a result of repetitive daily tasks or physically demanding tasks. The three most common ergonomic hazards in labs are; objects, environments and systems. These hazards can cause poor posture, unnatural or uncomfortable movements and difficult working conditions. Exposure to such hazards over a long period of time increases the risk of injury.


Common ergonomic risk factors in laboratories include:

  1. Awkward body postures: Holding a bent/unnatural position for a long period of time
  2. Repetition: Repetitive strain injury is one of the most common injuries which manifests as a result of performing the same motion over and over again with an insufficient recovery period in between
  3. Force: Applying pressure to the body over a long period of time, such as lifting, gripping, or pinching equipment
  4. Soft tissue contact stress: Pressure on soft tissues such as your hands and fingers
  5. Room temperatures: Cold temperatures can cause loss of dexterity, which worsens the longer you are exposed


Signs you are suffering from ergonomic injuries include; numbness, tingling, stiffness, cramping, loss of grip strength, limited range of motion, loss of dexterity and perpetuating pain. Symptoms that go away overnight are usually the result of physical fatigue. However, if the problem persists after a reasonable period of rest, it is likely the beginning of a more serious injury that can result in chronic pain.


Here are a few scientifically backed tips to help mitigate common injuries and stressors caused by common laboratory tasks. 


  1. Stand Strong 
  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes to help relieve stress that comes from standing for a long period of time 
  • Use an anti fatigue mat. Anti-fatigue mats are designed to make the body sway naturally and promote constant movement of the calves and leg muscles, promoting blood flow, which helps prevent fatigue and stiffness. 


  1. Prioritize Posture
  • Use an adjustable chair/stool that allows you to always have your back rested against the chair and your feet rested either firmly on the ground or on an ergonomically friendly foot rest.
  • Ensure you have legroom with adequate knee clearance. If you are sitting, you should have room for your legs to move freely. Make sure you have space to prop a foot up, as it relieves back pressure. 
  • Keep all work tools within reasonable reach, so not to strain your body repeatedly when gaining access to such tools. Frequently used items should be directly in front of you, less frequently used items should be no further than arm's length 
  • Avoid hunching over by adjusting your workstation. For light work, the station should be at elbow height, and 15 cm below elbow height for heavy work. 


  1. Rest Then Repeat
  • Take frequent breaks to stretch, sit, and hydrate. Constant repetition can lead to stiffness. Stretching to promote blood flow and proper hydration will allow you to work longer with less adverse effects.


  1. A Few Final Pointers: 
  • Space out your intensive tasks throughout the day to not over exert yourself
  • Keep your space organized to minimize unnecessary tension in the body
  • Have proper lighting that does not strain your eyes, causing fatigue 
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The Evolution of the Microscope

The Evolution of the Microscope 

Imagine what the world would look like today if we could only see what was visible to the naked eye? The existence of cells would still be unknown to us, vaccines and medicines would be significantly less effective, and we would have far less understanding of what makes organisms live and thrive. What I just described is the world without the microscope. Let's take a look at how this revolutionary instrument came to be. 

10th Century: The Romans and Egyptians were the first to experiment and create with glass. They made it using sand, alkali, metal colouring and sodium carbonate, then forming it with seaweed and lime. They would use it to make and sell expensive art with a range of colours, techniques and complex patterns. 

13th Century: In Florence, Italy, a man named Salvino D’Armato Degli Armati discovered that convex glass makes objects appear larger. With that knowledge, he invented the first pair of wearable glasses that could magnify objects. 

16th Century: A father and son named Zacharias Jensen and Hans, who were Dutch spectacle makers, invented the first compound microscope. It was developed using three draw tubes and lenses, which were put at both ends of the tubes, allowing for magnification. Today these are known as bi-convex eyepieces and plano-convex objective lenses. 

17th Century: In 1609, Galileo Galilei, turned his telescope into a microscope by using shorter focal lengths. Using the bi-convex lenses, and the bi-concave eyepiece, he could reach 30x magnification. Galileo went on to develop another microscope with three lenses but the same magnification of 30x. 

In 1665, a man named Robert Hooke published the “micrographia'', which is a log of all his observations on a wide range of objects through a microscope. The microscope had a single lens, and he used a candle to enhance clarity of the objects under observation. What started out as a presumed observation of fleas, turned out to be the discovery of plant cells and the development of the first cell theory.

Cell theory is at the core of essentially all sciences including chemistry, physiology and medicine. This was a huge discovery as it showed that cells are similar in the way they function and reproduce, and helped understand how cells relate to our genetic makeup. This discovery led to the true understanding of how the human body functions (on a cellular level). 

19th Century: In 1974, Dutch scientist and tradesman, Leeuwenhoek, developed a microscope that was able to produce clearer images with higher levels of magnification. His microscopes, though much smaller than usual, became the best and most sought after as it was the first microscope that could be used to clearly observe bacteria. 

One persistent problem at this time was the chromatic effect. Joseph Jackson Lister, an English wine merchant, eradicated this problem by creating an achromatic lens. He did so by combining multiple weak lenses together, at a range of distances. This allowed for magnification to occur without the image being blurred or distorted. His refinement of the microscope was the start of the microscope becoming an extremely important tool in medical research.

20th Century: The microscope continued to be improved and new developments led to the Transmission Electron Microscope, the Phase Contrast Microscope and the Confocal Imaging Principle.

From the microscope came the first CAT scanner allowing medical professionals to get a detailed image of structures inside the body. Not only did the microscope accelerate the medical industry, it manifested the invention of other revolutionary devices in light of its existence. Without such devices, individuals would still be dying from avoidable injuries and illnesses, and our understanding of this planet, along with the humans that exist on it, would not be nearly as thorough as it is today. 

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