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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Laboratory Ergonomics. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Causes of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

The primary goal of ergonomics is the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

There are many potential causes of MSDs. Injury can occur from a single event (strain, sprain, slip, or fall) or result from build-up of tissue damage from many small injuries. An MSD can develop over time if a motion is repeated consistently so that the constant trauma causes damage to a muscle, tendon, bone, or bursa of a joint. Force, vibration, or maintenance of an awkward position for a prolonged period of time can cause MSDs.

Some specific causes of MSDs that are related to laboratory tasks are:

  • Prolonged use of a keyboard or mouse
  • Prolonged sitting at a microscope
  • Pipetting
  • Screwing and unscrewing vial caps
  • Standing at a laboratory instrument for a prolonged period of time
  • Lack of rest-- intensive hours at the workstation with few breaks
  • Sustained awkward position