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Proper Laboratory Ergonomic Setup and Work Practices



Activities in research laboratories can increase the risk for a repetitive strain or other musculoskeletal injury. Simple adjustments to posture, work practices, and equipment can decrease the risk for injury while still maintaining laboratory productivity. The following describes laboratory workstation ergonomic guidelines and tools.

General Laboratory Workstation Guidelines
Requesting Laboratory Workstation Evaluations
Laboratory Ergonomic Equipment Reimbursement Fund
Industrial Ergonomics Screening Tool

General Laboratory Workstation Guidelines

To promote your health and ensure your laboratory productivity, simple postural and equipment adjustments can be made. The following tips can help decrease your exposure to ergonomic risk factors in the laboratory.

Click here for a printable sheet of laboratory ergonomics guidelines.

  • Posture
    • Minimize maintaining the same body position (seated, standing, etc.) for an extended amount of time by taking microbreaks (every 15-30 minutes), shifting your weight around, and alternating tasks.
    • Minimize awkward body postures.
    • Avoid resting arms on sharp table edges. Pad the edges with foam or use a cushion.
  • Seating
    • Adjust the chair properly before you start work.
    • Your feet should rest comfortably on the floor or footrest.
    • The chair should provide adequate back support. Sit all of the way back to provide back support.
    • The front edge of the chair should not press against the back of the knees.
    • Armrests should not hinder your work activities.
    • Remove items from under the workstation to provide legroom.
  • Standing
    • For prolonged standing, rest one foot on a step/stool. Alternate the feet.
    • Wear low-heeled shoes with good cushioning. Floor mats with cushioning can also provide comfort.
  • Shoulders
    • Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows by your sides. Place frequently used items close to your body to avoid excessive reaching.
    • Avoid raising your elbows above your shoulders. Use ladders and stools to reach for items on high shelves.
  • Pipetting
    • See posture, seating, and standing tips above.
    • Take frequent microbreaks (1-2 minutes, every 15-30 minutes). Alternate activities to minimize continuous pipetting for long periods.
    • Maintain straight wrists. Keep the elbows close to the body.
    • Share the workload between the right and left hands. Rotate pipetting tasks with other qualified lab colleagues.
    • Keep waste bins, beakers, and other frequently used items as close as possible.
    • Relax your grip on the pipette.
    • Use shorter pipettes and pipette tips.
    • Choose pipettes that require minimal hand and finger effort.
    • Utilize automated processes or multi-channel pipettes for highly repetitive jobs.
  • Test tube handling
    • See posture, seating, and standing tips above.
    • Take frequent microbreaks (1-2 minutes, every 15-30 minutes).
    • Maintain straight wrists. Keep the elbows close to the body.
    • Share the workload between the right and left hands.
    • Arrange the tubes to minimize reaching and twisting.
    • Use both hands to open test tubes.
    • Use upside-down containers to raise test tube racks (when needed).
    • Use a vortexer mixer rack instead of holding tubes by hand.
    • Use cap removers to minimize pinch gripping.
  • Microscope use
    • See posture, seating, and standing tips above.
    • Take frequent microbreaks to rest your eyes (momentarily close the eyes or focus on far away objects to vary focal length).
    • Spread microscope work throughout the day or rotate the work among several colleagues.
    • Maintain straight wrists. Keep the elbows close to the body.
    • Avoid tilted head/neck postures. Raise and stand the microscope to allow a more upright, “neutral” posture. Move the microscope to the edge of the counter to avoid a tilted neck.
    • Keep scopes clean and in good condition.
  • Laboratory hoods/safety cabinets
    • See posture, seating, and standing tips above
    • Position materials/equipment in the hood/cabinet as close to the body as possible, but at least 6 inches into the hood for safety.
    • Avoid resting arms on the sharp edges of lab hoods. Use padding (if possible) and take frequent microbreaks.
  • Other laboratory tasks
    • Take frequent microbreaks (1-2 minutes, every 15-30 minutes).
    • Avoid pinch gripping when possible. Learn to pinch between the index and middle finger.
    • Share the workload between right and left hands.
    • Choose the right equipment for the job. Learn how to properly use the equipment.
    • Ensure tools are in proper working order.
    • Increase the size of tool handles where possible to minimize the gripping effort.
    • Use automated processes to reduce high repetition/force tasks.
  • For additional laboratory information, visit the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Health and Safety Guide to Laboratory Ergonomics (

Laboratory Workstation Evaluations

  • For assistance with your laboratory workstation setup and ergonomic products, call 736-4392.

Laboratory Ergonomic Equipment Reimbursement Fund Program


The purpose of Stanford University's Ergonomics Program is to promote employee health by decreasing workplace exposure to ergonomic risk factors. This is done through a combination of employee training, workstation evaluations, and the implementation of ergonomic control strategies. The Laboratory Equipment Reimbursement Fund program assists departments with the costs of approved laboratory ergonomic furniture and equipment. A training incentive in the form of a 50% reimbursement is available for eligible departments.

 Eligibility and Funding

  • The fund is available to SU research laboratories only.
  • Total funds for each PI are based on the total number of laboratory employees and post-docs that have completed the Environmental Health and Safety Department’s Laboratory Ergonomics Training. (Call EH&S at 736-4392 to schedule a training session for your lab.)
  • PI or person in charge of day-to-day lab operations (e.g. Lab Manager) must take the training.
  • The fund program is effective until established funds are depleted.

Total number of people trained

Fund limit ($)

















Reimbursement Procedures

  • Purchase EH&S-approved products (see below).
  • The laboratory submits a reimbursement form with the attached product invoice(s) and training documentation to EH&S.
  • The laboratory initiates ijournal transfer – charge PTA: 1026392-101-AABAS.
  • Environmental Health and Safety approves journal transfers up to 50% of the purchase price (with the limits specified above) into the appropriate account.

EH&S Approved Products  – various equipment such as pipettes and laboratory stools. You may also get this list by calling EH&S at 736-4392. Note: Other types of ergonomic equipment such as microscope extensions, automated dispensing systems, etc. will be approved on a case-by-case basis by contacting EH&S.

Laboratory Ergonomics Links

For help with ergonomics the Stanford University community may contact EH&S at 723-0448 or email.


Back to the Ergonomics Home Page