Re: Histology Ergonomics

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From:"Barry Rittman" <>
To:histology <>
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There has been a lot of useful discussion regarding ergonomics in the
histology lab.
This did not seem to be a real problem when I worked full time in a lab. I
think that this was largely due to the fact that everyone carried out
multiple tasks all the time. It was rare for one individual to sit for more
than a few hours at a microtome. In many laboratories in the States it seems
that individuals are given a specific task such as cutting, mounting
sections, special stains etc. and carries out that task for an entire week.
This may be the most efficient utilization of a given number of people on
paper but I believe may be largely responsible for the problems which have
been noted.
I feel that ergonomically designed equipment should always be considered the
desirable way to go. I also feel that if the true cost of health problems
associated with repetitive laboratory tasks carried on for days at a time
were built into cost and time analyses then we might have a more friendly
budgetary attitude towards histotechs and their working environment.
It is our responsibility to  bring some data such as average days lost,
medical bills etc. to those responsible for these budgets.

Kimberly Carter wrote:

> 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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