The microscope is one of the most frequently used instruments in clinical and research laboratories. However, long hours of peering at objects under the lenses can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MDS) including pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands. Eyestrain is also an issue. In addition to affecting users, MSDs result in employers paying out huge compensations, costing billions of dollars every year. All this shows why it is crucial that microscopes should be designed to optimize operator safety and comfort.
As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), notes, “Microscope work is straining both to the visual system and the musculoskeletal system. Operators are forced into an unusual exacting position, with little possibility to move the head or the body. They are often forced to assume an awkward work posture such as the head bent over the eye tubes, the upper part of the body bent forward, the hand reaching high up for a focusing control, or with the wrists bent in an unnatural position”.
Traditional microscope design is fine for short-term use. But long-term sessions pose a big problem for scientists and technicians. Poor stance and uncomfortable positioning when using a microscope are the main risk factors for MSDs that can affect full-time operators.
Leading microscope manufacturers have come out with new designs that lower worker strain, health problems and stress levels. Modern microscopes come in categories such as compound, stereo, and digital. Based on the type of observation, there are stereo inspection microscopes, inverted and upright compound microscopes, and fluorescence microscopes. Each type has different ergonomic requirements but is designed so that it can be better adjusted to be comfortable while serving the user’s needs. Advanced models intended for longer sessions come with features such as
- Adjustable eyepieces and ergonomically positioned controls
- Objective rotation and electrically powered focus and objective rotation
- Facility to connect to TV or computer for examination of repetitive specimens
- Flexibility to adjust variables such as bench height, armrest base angle, observation eye-level, and instrument height
Using ergonomically designed instruments and following best practices in setting up of a microscope workstation and in the use of the device can reduce worker fatigue and incidence of MSDs by reducing and even eliminating highly repetitive tasks.