How to reduce stress and fatigue from repetitive pipetting.

Pipetting is a highly repetitive laboratory task done routinely in most of the labs. Extended periods of pipetting, especially manual pipetting, can cause a number of fatigue related disorders including joint pain at the wrist, shoulder pain, tendinitis, and excessive stress on the back from awkward postures. Some of the (preventable) factors of these conditions are: twisting or bending of the wrists for extended periods of time, excessive force exerted on the thumb to press down the pipet plunger, and standing for extended periods of time in the same position.

You can reduce or even eliminate many of these factors while pipetting for extended periods of a time by following a few simple preventive measures:

  • Sit straight and keep your head up.
  • Keep samples close to you and at an optimum height to avoid over reaching.
  • Take a break after pipetting for 15- 20 minutes. During the break, perform stretches for your fingers and wrists to relieve strain.
  • If standing for long periods of time, stand on stress-reducing floor mats.
  • Try to keep the pipette tip disposal bag close to the dispensing container to avoid excessive hand movement to dispose the tips.
  • Make sure the pipette plungers are properly maintained in order to avoid applying excessive pressure on your thumb.
  • Work with your arms close to your body to reduce shoulder strain. Make sure your head and shoulders are relaxed in a neutral position.
  • Use adjustable chairs to keep your body at an optimum height to the workbench. Whenever possible use a programmable electronic pipette.

A routine task in labs is to pipet samples to or from multiwell plates (e.g., 96-well plates). Pipetting samples from random wells requires cross-referencing wells using the alphanumeric indices as a reference. Doing this for a prolonged period of time can cause mental fatigue and strain on the eyes; this may cause headaches. Pioneer Scientific sells a few products that help with the repetitive task of pipetting. The Well Orienter allows researchers to identify individual wells with much ease by removing the need for cross referencing. Using our Well Orienter allows you to see the individual well address very clearly. In order to help remove strain, we offer the Well Orienter Stand to keep the plate and the template at an ideal viewing angle of 30 degrees.
A related product from Pioneer Scientific is the Multiwell Guide. In this product, a 96 well plate is placed in a tray with a sliding orienter. This allows you to identify entire columns of wells at a time. This works very well with multichannel pipets.
By following some of the preventive measures and using some of the tools listed above, you can reduce the fatigue and strain that comes with pipetting; in addition to reducing strain, you can also improve efficiency and productivity.

About James Maliakal

I am James Maliakal, writer of this blog and is with Pioneer Scientific. I have 12 plus years of experience working in the research lab in academic and leading life science companies. From my years of experience, I have designed and developed unique products which made my work a little easier and efficient in the lab. I have authored and published in peer reviewed journals. Pioneer Scientific is a leading manufacturer and distributor of innovative products, high quality laboratory instruments, and research tools. Contact me to know more.