Histology Ergonomics

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From:Kimberly Carter <carter.343@osu.edu>
To:"'HistoNet Server'" <histonet@pathology.swmed.edu>
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This is in response to some of the ergonomic questions that are being
asked. While I was working the the surgical histology at a large
University Hospital, a study was done to address the repetitive motion
syndrome issues so prevalent in histology. A team of people were hired
to analyze how everything was being done in the lab. Techs were video
taped to break down how each task was being done. I will try to pass on
what I remember from the study.-While facing into the block, do not
"rock" the handle. Make full rotations of the wheel. Loosen your grip on
the handle. Most people tighten their grip the longer they cut. -Do not
break the wrist while cutting. Try to hold it in a relaxed but
straighter position, using your shoulder and elbow more. -I also cut a
hole in a tennis ball big enough to fit on the handle. I found that I
didn't grip the handle so hard. -Buy good ergonomic chairs. Sit all the
way to the back of them, not on the edge. Use a foot stool to relieve
the stress on you legs and knees. You need to be as high above your
microtome as possible. Remove all "pencil" drawers under the counter
tops.-Rotate your tasks. We embedded the bxs, made the slides, and then
cut them. After they were done, we would do a batch of regular bocks.
Then repeat if there were any left. Coverslipping was done on a rotating
basis of 30-60 minutes for each tech.You must stop and stretch after no
more than 20 minutes of any task. This includes the hands, fingers,
elbows, shoulders, legs, and backs.  Any place you feel strain.
    I hope these suggestions will help some of you. But I have to end
this story. This is a  large laboratory of 700-900 blocks a day.(not
counting coroners and autopsy cases). I no longer work there, in part
because of some of the ergonomic issues. The study did recommend to
automate where possible. Automatic microtomes are being bought one and
two at a time to replace the manual ones. The following instruments were
also bought -coverslipper, slide labeler and cassette labeler. It is
helping some but some permanent damage was already done. Please remember
that just because you are not hurting now, does not mean that you will
not in the future. It is much easier to prevent injuries than to try to
fix them when they occur.

 Kim Carter

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