Ergonomic Lab Design Considerations

When designing a lab, function is one of the key considerations within the process. The very nature of the work lends itself to awkward positions, repetitive motion and movements, and prolonged standing and sitting. Researchers and lab workers are susceptible to a variety of trauma injuries and ergonomic-related issues as a result of the work that they do, which is why having a healthy, safe working environment is so critical in the lab setting.

Of course, to get labs on board, they have to understand the importance and value of ergonomics as it relates to lab design and layout. Ergonomic lab design is all about adapting the environment to the various needs of the users, and this is done as a means to reduce the stress on the body, lessen the likelihood of awkward positions and reduce the strain of repetitive motion injuries. Of course, beyond the right equipment and environment, people also have to be educated on laboratory ergonomics, why they work, and why they matter so much.

It’s About the User Experience.

Like any workplace, implementing something like ergonomics is all about giving users the required space that they need to work safely and in a way that will reduce the risk of musculoskeletal strain and injury to the body. There are a variety of factors involved here, including everything from the space itself to the furnishings, and even teaching people how to work differently to promote healthier habits. Some of the areas covered in setting up an ergonomic lab design include:

  • Lighting
  • Temperature and Noise Levels
  • Workstations
  • Physical Health and Well-Being

Studies have shown that lower back and neck issues were the most common problems in laboratory workers and that Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a huge factor in pain for workers that experience ongoing workplace-related issues.

How to Design an Ergonomic Lab

To set up a workspace that is safe and effective for everyone, it’s best to do a full review of the space and identify any areas that present an issue. This is done through an ergonomic assessment, which typically involves four areas of focus. Laboratory Design and Supply has extensive experience assessing lab conditions and suitability to avoid injuries.

  • The first thing to look at is how tasks are performed in the lab, and this can be done by breaking it down to specific spaces and workstations. Does the station require a lot of repetitive motion or awkward movements? Is there a lot of bending, twisting, hunching, or other motion involved that can damage the body if not done properly? Your first goal will be to identify the tasks that need ergonomics.
  • Then, you’ll need to understand what users need, in terms of specific complaints, special requirements or requests, and other elements. After all, even with an ergonomic lab, if people are not trained to work properly, the injuries and issues could continue.
  • Next, you should identify whether the equipment, lighting, and environment are suited for the task(s) at hand. Is there enough room? Do you have the right chairs, tables, and other furnishings? Do people know how to properly use the equipment and work safely? These are all important things that should be on your assessment list.
  • Once you’ve completed the assessment and identified the shortcomings, you’ll be able to review your existing lab practices and daily operating procedures to ensure that the ergonomic lab design and its best practices are carried throughout your entire lab, for all tasks, workstations, and user needs.

It Starts with Lab Design and is Followed with Education

To implement a successful program to reduce workplace injuries and musculoskeletal strains related to poor habits or repetitive tasks and get the most out of your ergonomic lab, it is essential that user education be a part of it. An introduction to what the process of ergonomics and safer workplace practices entails along with repeated reminders using posters, for example, will go a long way to ensuring that your investment in the right tools have the best results. Your staff need to know how to identify potential risks, avoid them, and manage their bodies and their workspace to be more effective, comfortable, and supportive for their overall health and wellbeing.

One of the biggest topics of lab ergonomics is the constant sitting and appropriate sitting practices. Stools are ideal for labs, but the right kind of stools with supportive backs—it may be time to consider alternative seating that is more conducive to spinal support so that your people can work safely and comfortably. Of course, there’s a lot more to the process than just “sit up straight” and telling people to be careful.

We supply a variety of free-form ergonomic solutions for labs, including lab seating, designed to help you make improvements in your workspace and encourage the continuous improvement of ergonomics for everyone in the lab. If you’re ready to revamp your lab design and embrace functional ergonomics, call us today.