Applying Ergonomics For Injury Free Pipetting Ovation BioNatural pipettes overcome ailments associated with older axial devicesN umerous liquid handling proce- with the introduction of the Ovation dures rely on the ubiquitous BioNatural Pipette. Early on, the company’s pipette, and pipetting has long market research and customer feedbackbeen an indispensable laboratory skill. The showed that customers were concernedawkwardness, repetitiveness, stress and about ergonomics. Users were also reportingtedium inherent in traditional pipetting, difficulties with installing pipette tips reliably,however, are all harbingers of cumulative getting them to stay on, and with removingtrauma disorders (CTDs) - a major source them. Less worrisome were the actualof pain, discomfort, downtime and lost aspirating and dispensing of fluids.productivity among numerous pipette users. VistaLab assembled a team to examine CTDs - also referred to as repetitive how comfortably and for how long someonestress injuries (RSIs) and musculoskeletal could operate one of the devices. The goaldisorders (MSDs) - are prevalent in the was to discover how to raise the comfortworkplace, and have been designated the level and reduce stress for pipette usersleading single class of injury in the 1990s by currently and mitigate injury in the longOSHA. Lost-time and term - then turn that into an ergonomiccompensation costs alone pipette design.average some $20 billionannually, while total costs, In Search of Respitewhich include lost VistaLab Technologies’ project team startedproductivity and indirect out by observing and interviewing numerousexpenditures, amount to pipette users. One team member, Kevinabout $120 billion annual- Costello, President, US Ergonomics, and aly. A single injury can cost Figure 1. 20-year veteran in the field, says, “Ourmore than $25,000 in preparatory discussions focused on themedical and indemnity claims. sub-analysis of women pipette users found thumb and the force needed to acquire and Laboratory workers are hardly spared. that pipetting for more than 300 hours a remove tips as the problem areas. Then weThe repetitiveness, non-optimal postures year elevates the risk of hand and shoulder went out and saw pipette users holdingand high forces that are common in ailments. With laboratory workers averag- these long tubes in their hands with theirtraditional pipetting cause user injuries, ing about 500 hours of pipetting a year elbows high up in the air.several far beyond the hand and thumb - (some 2 hours a day) the severity of the “We were appalled at the positioning ofcontrary to popular intuition. Research problem is clear. the shoulder and neck and the static loadingorganizations and government agencies - muscles under load with a minimalhave documented many risk factors(1, 2, 3) What Ails Pipetting amount of motion - which created highwhile noting significant increases in hand While the long hours of repetitive motion potential for fatigue in those muscles.”and elbow injuries among pipette users.(1) link pipetting and CTDs, the ergonomic Based on those observations, the teamAlmost a decade ago, the National Institute deficiencies of many existing pipettes designed a pipette to enable technicians toof Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) contribute significantly to the problem. work in a neutral position - a naturaldeclared that a biomechanical hazard was Traditional axial-style pipettes, a 40-year ergonomic posture in which the relaxedassociated with pipetting; in a 1996 report vintage, are built around a single axis of arms, with the palms facing each other atcovering laboratory operations, it outlined operation. These pipettes are accurate, about a 45-degree angle, are held in frontsteps for minimizing CTD risks.(4) durable and quite common, and users of the chest area. This allows pipette users One study on associations between generally find them adequate. But their to work in a semicircular area right in frontpipetting and CTDs showed that in a design did not to keep pace with the strides of their bodies. (Figure 1)sample of technicians, 44%, 58% and 44% in ergonomics. As a result, they fail to shield “The idea was to have the pipette usersreported hand, shoulder and neck prob- users from cumulative injuries linked to hold their arms closer to their sides. Welems respectively.(5) Technicians who did long sessions of awkward repetitive motion. looked at the angle between the elbow,more than 12,000 pipetting repetitions in a To overcome this, VistaLab Technologies, shoulder and hip. It was important to keepday felt acute soreness in their hands. A radically updated the concept of pipetting the upper arm close to the body, minimizing AN ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT TO BIOSCIENCE TECHNOLOGY
[Applying Ergonomics For Injury Free Pipetting]abduction, which is the lifting of the elbow help to keep contact stresses ataway from the body. That in turn minimizes their lowest.the torque on the shoulder, the static muscle Introduced commercially in 2002loading, and the neck and shoulder stress with an adjustable volume model, theassociated with the pipette,” says Costello. ergonomic features of the Ovation Other key design challenges revolved BioNatural have received considerablearound the incorporation of features that attention. The product line has been expandedminimized the hand forces required for tip recently to include electronic multichannelapplication and removal, within a light, and single channel models, all of whichwell-balanced pipette. maintain the ergonomic design and other user preferred features. Of specific note is theBirth of the Ovation BioNatural unique tip head on the Ovation Multichannel,The team soon realized that a radical which significantly lowers the force neededoverhaul of the basic pipette design was to acquire multiple tips simultaneously andneeded. allows the use of both hands, thus reducing This led to a device that had an angled stress to any specific muscle group.design for getting tips into and out of target (Figure 2) Figure 2.points. The design also stored the energy The Ovation has been independentlyused to apply the tips in a spring for later evaluated quite favorably and is now being gloves. Wrist posture and forearm rotationuse to remove the tip - a spring-loaded tip used by thousands of researchers and were measured with a twin axis goniometer.ejection system. scientists on a daily basis. Shoulder elevation was measured with “Storing the energy from tip application video task analysis software. All thefor use in tip ejection eliminates the second Independent Assessments measurements were done during the majorhardest part for the hand and is really of Ovation four pipetting steps: tip acquisition;beneficial. The angle of the device and the Extensive testing by Ergonomics aspiration; over blow and tip ejection.fact that the arm can be held at the side are Technologies Corporation has shown the Finger forces required by Ovation wereother major ergonomic advantages,” says Ovation to be the only commercial pipette some five times lower that those requiredCostello. with levels of arm flexion and extension, for the axial pipettes. (Figure 3) This A small clicking sound lets the user know wrist flexion and maximum muscle activity translates to greater comfort, less fatiguewhen the tip has been securely applied or below the recommended limits.(6) It is the and lower CTD risk. In a sub-analysis ofremoved. “The fact that the device provides only pipette that allows the forearm to the hand forces data, significantly lowersome feedback when the tips are applied is operate in the pronated position, which thumb force requirements were associatedvaluable. This eliminates pounding and the generates a markedly lower level of carpal with Ovation versus the traditional pipettes.use of additional force,” says Costello. tunnel pressure.(7) The analysis also showed that wrist The Ovation uses the power grip, which deviation was significantly lower with theincreases the available hand strength by NIOSH Study Ovation while picking up the pipette,about four times compared with the pinch A 2004 NIOSH study, which was a part of acquiring tips and during aspiration versusgrip used with traditional pipettes. The power the National Occupational Research Agenda the other pipettes. (Figure 4) The values forgrip is loose and relaxed, making for greater (NORA), compared the Ovation and two wrist extension and flexion were lower forendurance and enhanced productivity. Its axial pipettes. A battery of ergonomic Ovation versus the comparators in all cases.contoured shape allows for the greatest measurements were collected and In an analysis of the percentage of timestability and low pressure from contact assessed.(8) that the shoulder is awkwardly elevated atwith the hand. A rounded plunger and tip Finger forces were measured via 19 more than 45 degrees, Ovation proved toejection button, both with reduced forces, sensors strategically placed in special be lowest in all cases. (Figure 5) Comparative Analysis - United States ErgonomicsUnited States Ergonomics conducted com- and the neck - we also had sensors that always be there, but you can knock down theparative tests with the Ovation and other measured dynamic posture of the body as force and improve posture. You can expectpipettes and analyzed the data for perform- the device was used. people using a device that has reducedance levels. “Subjects did not know what device was magnitude of exposure in those areas to US Ergonomics President, Kevin Costello being tested. We tested the Ovation pipette work longer with a lower degree of risk fornotes, “The Ovation device had statistically next to several traditional style pipettes to any aches, pains, discomfort or injury.significantly lower effort levels associated quantify the amount of effort needed to use “This means that there is a good chancewith tipping and de-tipping and significantly them. In simple terms, the lower the effort, that someone who found pipetting painful,improved posture compared with the tradi- the lower the stress, the lower the risk of depending on their specific injuries, will betional pipettes. injury and inversely, the higher the able to use the Ovation because this device “For these tests, we connected electrodes productivity. Productivity is the amount of requires different muscle groups - and theyto the key muscles involved in the effort - effort required to do a task. will be using a lower percentage of overallforearms, upper arms, shoulder muscles, “You wont affect repetition, that will effort to get the job done.
[Applying Ergonomics For Injury Free Pipetting]Duke University Study Figure 3.The Duke University Department of Ergo-nomics evaluated 61 workers’ pipetting 16 Total Finger Forceexperiences via an extensive questionnaire A 14 I Benchmatethat covered work habits, location, severity A 12 I Eppendorfand frequency of discomfort.(9) C I Ovation Substantial discomfort was reported 10 A(Figure 6), with areas of highest frequency A A 8 A Cbeing: neck (56%), lower back, right shoul-der (33%), right wrist (26%) and right 6hand (25%). The thumb, most intuitivelyassociated with pipetting, was the sixth in 4 A A B B Bdiscomfort frequency. B 2 B One half of the study participants wereprovided with Ovation pipettes, which they 0used in their normal lab work, as part of a Pick up Pick up Aspirate Overblow Eject tip pipette tipsix-week trial. They had no prior knowledgeof the Ovation, and at the end of the six Different letters indicate significant difference (p<0.05)weeks they were asked to compare thepipette they used previously to the Ovation. There was overwhelming preference for Figure 4.Ovation because it offered greater comfort.There was strong preference for the Ovation 30 Wrist Deviationon questions of accuracy and general use I Benchmatethroughout the workday. 25 I Eppendorf A A A I Ovation A BChris Marchand, Research 20Associate, Contractor, National A A BInstitutes of Health 15 B A A • Acquired Ovation pipettes for B technical features 10“I have used the Ovation pipette almost one 5year now for a high throughput-screeningproject with 96 well plates to test thousands 0of compounds. We have been working with Pick up Pick up Aspirate Overblow Eject tipthe single channel Ovation since they were pipette tiplaunched and liked them a lot. “So we decided to try the multichannel Different letters indicate significant difference (p<0.05)ones. Now we have two 8-channel and two12-channel Ovation pipettes, which we canuse by columns or by rows with the 96 improvements in the Ovation pipettes - and reason for us.well plates. We appreciate the tips because we believe they are much easier to use in “We wanted something that was reliable,of their quality and precision. the long run - this aspect attracted us to precise and easy to use, particularly the “We were aware of the ergonomic them but it was hardly the overriding ease with which one can eject the tips.ERGO 101A common misconception about ergonomics individual awareness to control exposure; force, contact stress, postures, and useris that once there is no heavy lifting, there overall health; and in cases where predispo- education can be greatly improved. This willare no ergonomic issues. sition issues arise based on the use of have a major positive effect at reducing Ergonomics is concerned with several risk medications that can increase risk). exposure and the risk.factor categories: posture, force, repetition If the force level is above threshold, the “Ergonomic issues are cumulative. Theselevels, vibration (whole body or head and arm likelihood of it producing an ergonomically injuries build over time. You have to minimizevibration, really not an issue with pipetting), related injury can increase significantly. But if known risks. Pipette users who do not haveenvironmental factors (temperature, lighting, categories are combined, such as force and pain now, who are slamming on tips andnoise, etc.), physical contact stress (contact repetition, the likelihood of a CTD can have their arms elevated might be fine now,between the body and an object - in the case increase exponentially. but if they continue for any length of time, orof pipetting, how the device fits in the hand So even if repetition cannot be eliminated if the work demands increase, they could seeand whether there are edges digging into the - in fact, aside from automation, repetition a negative effect because of the risk factors,”skin) and personal risk factors (related to really cannot be eliminated from pipetting - says U.S. Ergonomics’ Kevin Costello.
[Applying Ergonomics For Injury Free Pipetting]Figure 5. work with the Ovation, I could last as much as four times longer than regular pipettes. 100 - “I work through the pain and the Shoulder Elevation Greater than 45° A A B numbness - but the Ovation definitely A decreases the amount of pain I experience. 80 - I Benchmate A I Eppendorf B “There are a number of great features on I Ovation the Ovation. It is lighter, but what I like 60 - most is the different positioning of the A A hand, which is what I went out looking for. A A B “I hold it differently but instead of using 40 - my thumb, I am using my fingers. I was looking for a pipette that will allow me to 20 - B do that in a different position and this is the only one that I found. All I have been 0- finding were pipettes with the thumbs - Pick up Pick up Aspirate Overblow Eject tip pipette tip granted this one still requires the thumb but it is a different position of the hand. Different letters indicate significant difference (p<0.05) “I literally sat for ten minutes at each of the different vendor’s displays at a trade show and tried all their pipettes, andFigure 6. Ovation was the only one that I took home.” 40 - Results – Discomfort at PRE-test Author Michael Wagner writes on a wide 35 - (Across both groups (N=61), how many reported symptoms) range of topics in the life sciences. 30 - I Severity > 0 (reporting symptoms) Additional information about the Ovation 25 - I Severity > = 3 BioNatural Pipette can be obtained at www.vistalab.com, or by contacting 20 - VistaLab Technologies at (888) 652-6520 15 - or (914) 244-6226. 10 - 5- References: 0- 1. David, G., Buckle, P. A questionnaire survey of neck - Rshldr - Lshldr - Uback - Mback - Lback - Rarm - Larm - Ref - Lef - Rwrist - Lwrist - Rhand - Lhand - Rfing - Lfing - Rthumb - Lthumb - the ergonomic problems associated with pipettes and their usage with specific reference to work- related upper limb disorders. Appl. Ergonomics, (1997) 28(4):257-262. 2. Baker, P., Cooper, C. Upper limb disorder due toGabe Guzman, Post-doctoral shoulders are not as tired now. manual pipetting. Occup Med. (1995) 48(2):133-134.Fellow, CIIT, North Carolina “The versatility of this pipette is its best 3. Fredrickson, K. Laboratory work with automatic • Driven by curiosity for ergonomics point - softer to use, more secure, the tips pipettes: a study of how pipetting affects the thumb.“I have used the Ovation for a little bit over don’t actually fall off the sleeve of the Ergonomics. (1995) 38:1067-1073.a year and can’t see myself going back to pipette, there’s no risk of actually breaking 4. McGlothlin, J. D.; Hales, T. R. “Health Hazardusing traditional pipettes anymore. the tip, which sometimes happens because Evaluation Report”; HETA 95-0294-2594; ScienceTraditional pipetting feels really awkward of the pushing action required with the tra- Applications International Corporation, Frederick,now because of the vertical position. ditional pipette when picking up a tip, espe- MD; NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human “The Ovation was the first time I saw cially if you push too hard. Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Diseaseanything ergonomically designed for pipetting. Control and Prevention; August 1996.Normally, you hear about ergonomics having Francis Weis-Garcia, Manager of 5. Bjorksten, M. G., Almby, B., Jansson, E. S. Appl.to do with the right posture when you are in the Monoclonal Antibody Core Ergonomics (1994) 25(2):87-93.your station or sitting at your workbench. It Facility, Memorial Sloan Kettering 6. ETC Referencesis not often that you see it linked to dexterity, • Pipette user with carpal tunnel 7. Rempel, D., Bach, J., Gordon, L., Yuen, S. Effectsthat is, to use with your hands and for syndrome of forearm pronation/supination on carpal tunnelrepetitive action such as pipetting. “I have only used Ovation for a month or so pressure. J. of Hand Surgery (1998)23A:38-42. “While I have never had any trouble with but I am going to buy them. Basically I can’t 8. Presentation by Ming-Lun (Jack) Lu, PhD,my fingers, elbow etc., I could feel tiredness pipette regularly for more than five minutes Research Ergonomist, Division of Applied Research &in my neck and shoulders whenever I had to before I start getting severe symptoms of Technology - NIOSH Special Session-Ergonomicpipette a lot in the vertical position. Because carpal tunnel syndrome - pain, numbness etc. Intervention Studiesof the design of the hood, your wrist would “With the Ovation, I could go easily for 9. A comparison of traditional and alternativebe higher than your shoulder. With the about 10 to 20 minutes. It is not a complete pipettes - comfort and preference - Presentation byOvation that is not a problem anymore, my relief but it increases the duration I could Tamara James, MS, CPE, Ergonomics Director,wrist is always lower than my shoulder - my work without experiencing the stress. When I Duke University and Medical Center.