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Ergonomic and epidemiologic evaluation of a biological laboratory.

McGlothlin J; Hales T
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 19-23, 1997, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1997 May; :54-55
Laboratory technicians who work in biosafety cabinets and use pipettes are at risk for developing musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses. Recently, NIOSH researchers conducted an evaluation at a federal research laboratory because of increased reports of cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) among research technicians working in the anticancer drug screening labs commonly known as the production laboratories. NIOSH investigators made an initial visit to the facility and conducted an ergonomic and medical evaluation; then, approximately 1 year later, conducted a follow-up study to evaluate changes in job risk factors and musculoskeletal morbidity rates. The medical evaluation consisted of a record review of OSHA Form 200, workers' compensation claims (WCC), and individual medical records maintained by the on-site occupational health clinic. For employees of the production labs, informal confidential medical interviews were conducted, and a questionnaire was administered. The ergonomic evaluation consisted of a walkthrough survey, informal interviews of production lab employees, and videotaping and analyzing job risk factors of production lab employees. Interim administrative and engineering recommendations to reduce job stressors were provided at the close of the first visit. Although the production lab employees represented less than 5% of the entire federal contractor work force, they represented 19 (26%) of the recordable CTD cases, 440 (80%) of the lost workdays, and 765 (56%) of the restricted workdays. In 1995, the number of production lab cases was reduced to three cases with no lost restricted workdays. Ergonomic job analysis of the production labs revealed that the production employees performed approximately 6000 to 11,700 repetitive motions per day involving the pipette. In addition, employees assumed awkward and static posture of the hand and thumb while activating the pipette plunger, and while extending the arm inside the biosafety cabinet to perform the pipetting operations. These repetitive motions in awkward and static postures during the pipetting tasks put employees at risk for developing CTDs. In 1995, several administrative and engineering controls were implemented to reduce employee CTD exposure. Administrative controls included more efficient drug screening protocols which allowed a 30% reduction in laboratory pipetting operations. In addition, more work breaks (5 to 15 minutes) were scheduled during pipetting operations, and all laboratory employees were encouraged not to rush through the pipetting tasks. Engineering controls such as foot-activated pipette liquid dispensers to reduce hand fatigue, and a robot to substitute manual pipetting operations, were also implemented. These administrative and engineering controls may have, in part, resulted in the reduction in the number and severity of OSHA 200 Log CTD cases experienced by the production labs in 1995.
Laboratory-workers; Laboratories; Musculoskeletal-system; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Injuries; Cumulative-trauma-disorders; Cumulative-trauma; Humans; Men; Women; Ergonomics; Medical-examinations; Risk-factors; Morbidity-rates; Questionnaires; Engineering; Stress; Workers; Work-environment; Work-areas; Repetitive-work; Posture; Hand-injuries; Engineering-controls; Control-technology
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 19-23, 1997, Dallas, Texas
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division