Unlike many industries and professions, the very nature of science is hazardous. Technicians and researchers are required to handle and are in close proximity to substances, agents and materials that are inherently risky. For this reason, greater care should be taken in selecting equipment that maximizes safety by reducing the risk of the workstation’s effect on the user. This review focuses on the associated risks of laboratory and clinical procedures and the required equipment that keeps the scientist safe from the agents being used; with emphasis on the evolution of human factors research and ergonomic features on biosafety cabinet engineering and design at Labconco Corporation (Kansas City, MO).
Though it may not seem obvious, every job has its own hazards. The majority of these hazards are due to how we, as humans, interact with our work. Laboratory science is no different; many scientists may not associate potential hazards and injuries to the layout and configuration of their work centers.
The field of Human Factors and Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary approach to understand how humans physically interact with their work environment and how design changes can help with safety and productivity. As defined by Merriam-Webster (n.d.), ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. One area of research in this field strives to improve how equipment design directs ease of use and positively impacts user safety.
The biological and chemical agents utilized in laboratories inherently come with risk. However, other risks present include “…repetitive motion injuries during routine laboratory procedures such as pipetting, working at microscopes, operating microtomes, using cell counters and keyboarding at computer work stations,” (OSHA, 2011). These risks are cited to be significant in the onset of several Repetitive Strain Injuries, or RSIs. Laboratory acquired RSIs can include:
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