Ergonomics of Pipette Use and Handling

Introduction

Lots of precision and concentration are needed while using pipettes in laboratories. Pipettes are usually used to perform reactions that involve chemical reagents. Working with chemicals always involves risks. Increased risk of hand and shoulder ailments is associated with long hours of using pipettes.

Safety factors such as the length and weight of the pipette, the force needed to operate it, and how it fits into the hand, have to be considered while using pipettes. Pipettes are commercially available in different makes and models. All of them have various features related to technical specification, ease of use, and price. Comfort and ease of use are influenced by the pipette features. This article focuses on the ergonomic aspects of pipette design and use.

Ergonomic design

To ensure safe, comfortable, and efficient pipettes, ergonomics has to be taken into account during the design and manufacture of pipettes. For repeated use of pipettes, reliability and accuracy are key factors. Users must be taken into account while designing a product, such as the type of tasks performed by users, the type of equipment used by them, as well as their working environment. The design of the pipette must permit a neutral position of the user’s wrist and hand. An excessive amount of force should not be required to operate the pipette, and any contact stresses incurred to the hand should be minimized.

Given below are some of the major ergonomic points to be considered when choosing a pipette. The following characteristics are essential for a good pipette: good grip and comfortable to hold; light in weight; no sharp ridges or edges; easy tip ejection and fitting; suitable for right- or left-handed use; and an easy-to-use plunger requiring minimal force.

Proper working posture

  • Minimum strain should be placed on muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc. when working with pipettes
  • While the person is sitting or standing, proper working height needs to be maintained during pipetting, as a wrong height will put more pressure on the upper limbs. If the height is very low, the person will have to bend over, thereby straining the back and neck in the process. Excessive working height will mean that the shoulders and arms will be in a raised position, thereby putting excessive strain on the limb muscles.
  • For longer hours of pipetting, a suitable chair should be provided. Sufficient leg space under the work surface helps the person to sit closer to the work. A good working posture is ensured by sitting in an adjustable chair. Footrests must be employed, if the feet do not rest comfortably on the floor even when the seat is at proper height.
  • The wrist must not be extended, flexed or rotated, but should be relaxed. The posture of the wrist may be affected by the shape of the pipette hilt.
  • Significant force need not be applied by the thumb in a properly designed pipette
  • A good working posture is enabled by suitably positioning the various devices on the work surface
  • Twisting, bending or awkward stretching is minimized when the solution containers, sample holders, and other equipment are kept at a comfortable height and position

Hazards of repetitive pipetting

Sometimes, pipetting is repeated by laboratory workers. Research has shown that repetitive pipetting may lead to upper limb problems. The work routine can be varied to lessen the adverse effects of excessive pipetting; tasks requiring varying postures and taking regular breaks can be introduced. For prolonged working, taking frequent breaks works better than taking a single, long break. The person can also switch between different tasks. The effects of repetition can also be reduced by employing a multipipette or an electronic pipette.

Optimally designed pipette

Pipettes should not need an excessive amount of force during operation; the plunger can be difficult to operate if more force has to be applied. A forceful action may also be needed for highly viscous liquids. Hence, it is preferable to design pipettes with a shorter plunger, as they require less effort. There should be a smooth movement of depressing the plunger; minimal effort should be applied to hold the pipette. The effort needed to grip the pipette can be reduced by having textured material or small ridges. However, using an electronic pipette is the best way to reduce the amount of force to be applied. However, since their weight is more, they may cause strain when held for longer periods, though the electronic versions require less operational effort.

Choose the proper pipette

Since many types of pipettes are available on the market, the chosen one must be easy to operate and enable safe and secure pipetting. The following guidelines will help in the selection of a suitable pipette:

  • The pipette must be light in weight; it should be cushioned or contoured to the person’s hand
  • A pipette should be chosen where fingers can be used to operate a trigger rather than the thumb
  • A plunger with short length of travel and low spring pressure should be selected
  • A proper-sized pipette should be chosen. If the hand covers less than half of the pipette when wrapped around, then the pipette is too large; it is very small if the hand is able to fully wrap around the pipette.
  • Only a minimal force is needed for the tip ejector; ejection is easy for thin-walled tips. Pipette-specific tips can also be employed whenever possible

About INTEGRA

INTEGRA provides innovative solutions for Liquid Handling and Media Preparation applications which serve the needs of their customers in research, diagnostics and quality control laboratories.

Their instruments and plastic consumables are developed and manufactured in Zizers, Switzerland and Hudson, NH USA. In order to remain close to their customers, they maintain a direct sales and support organization in North America, the UK, France and Germany, as well as a network of over 100 highly trained distribution partners worldwide.

In recent years they have focused on developing a new and technologically advanced range of handheld electronic pipettes which are simple to use and meet the ergonomic needs of their customers.

Today they are proud to offer the widest range of electronic pipettes in the market spanning a range from single channel pipettes up to 384 channel bench-top instruments.


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Last updated: May 10, 2017 at 8:45 AM

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