Unfortunately, every technicians know what this is about MSP. These famous musculoskeletal’ problems which are disturbing you on a daily basis and which can lead to severe consequences for the technician, but also for the laboratories.

MSP – Musculoskeletal’ Promblems

According to a research made by the Health Insurance(1), these MSP as well as the low back pain represent 87% of all professional diseases.

According to the Health Insurance, the most effected body parts are mostly the hands, the wrists and the fingers with 38%, followed near by the shoulders and the elbows.

Come after the knees and the low back in a lower proportion, but with equally heavier consequences.

Répartition TMS

MSP in the laboratory

A research was realized to assess the prevalence of hand and shoulder pathologies among laboratory technicians in correlation with the pipetting frequency, but also with psychosocial factors.

The Bjöksten research(2) shows an average pippeting time during all the techinican career of 6 904 hours ! This justifies that we pay special attention at this position, even if it’s not the only position that will have an health impact…

In this research, it’s found that 44% of the technicians report having hand problems, while 58% complain with shoulders problems and 44% with their neck.

Other body parts are also identified as painful, such as the back, the hips, the knees or the feet. 

In addition to this research, an article written by K.H.E KROEMER(3) has highlighted 7 risk factors to consider when identifying a risky position :

  • The activity repetitive aspect
  • Work requiring more than 30% of the maximum muscle strength in a prolonged or repetitive way
  • Extreme position of certain body parts with significant wrist flexions
  • Maintenance of a position during a significant period of time
  • Activities that put the body through vibrations
  • Activities at extreme temperatures (cold or hot)
  • Activities combining several factors mentioned above

These different researches identify pipetting as the cause of professional pain in the upper limbs due to the repetitive aspect, extreme positions and the necessary force.

(2) Hand and shoulder ailments among laboratory technicians using modern plunger-operated pipettes / M G Björksten 1, B Almby, E S Jansson

(3) Cumulative trauma disorders: Their recognition and ergonomics measures to avoid them – Article in Applied Ergonomics · January 1990

Pipetting’s impact on health

The consequences for the technicians are estimated to 45% as heavy sequelae, with professional disinsertion risks.

It is essential to put at the center of our concerns the Man’s impact on the use of laboratory supplies.

In the pipetting case, the most affected body part by MSP is clearly located on the hand. It is explained by the numerous solicitations which are mostly repetitive during the day.

So, it is imperative that all the material that is used repetitively or during a whole day is thought and adapted to the technician use.

A research realized by Putz Anderson has highlighted the need to better understand the laboratory technicians’ work to assess the link between the activity and the painful pathologies from which suffer the technicians.



Inserting the tip and wrist movement to manipulate the pipettePain and wrist and elbow inflammationTendonitis (tendon inflammation)
Strongly squeeze the pipette and do repetitive and energetic activities with the piston and ejection of the tip with the thumbPain at the extreme edge of the wrist, the thumb can be either flexible or block during the palmar flexion.

Spring finger syndrome (pipettor thumb) = the finger is blocked during the extension

Flexion, extension and rotation during pipetting, and insertion and ejectionHand weakness :

Numbness or tingling in the thumb, the index and the middle fingers, the palm of the hand, wrist pain induced by tips manipulations, fingers and thumb movements limitation, sharp and radiating pain from the hand to the elbow or the neck

Carpal canal syndrome
Tips insertion and pipette extension away from the bodyElbow pain worsening progressively, the pain radiate up to the forearm and the back hand when the patient takes the object or twists his hand; lowered grippingEpicondylitis

ACT for the technician’s health

Maybe you are asking yourself in which the choice of your micropipette may have consequences on your health ?

Several factors can be the cause of problems and they need to have all our attention in the choice that you’ll do to evaluate your micropipette.

Outside the traditional purchasing criteria, such as the precision of the pipetted quantity, the cost, the ease to achieve maintenance, the volume setting, and at last, the ergonomics; there is an significant part that need to be given to all the factors that can generate MSP.

To assess the impact of MSP, we identify various phases needing a static or a dynamic action :

  • Adjust the pipette’s volume with a rotational movement
  • Fix manually the tip for the bulk cones’ users or by positioning the pipette above rack-conditioned cones by applying force
  • Press the button allowing the air vacuum in the pipette’s body thanks to the intern piston shift
  • Progressively release the button to allow the liquid to go up in the cone
  • Move the hand to position yourself above the new container
  • Press the button again to eject the liquid
  • Position yourself above the trash cones
  • Press the tip eject button

We arrive at a total of 8 movements for a simple pipetting involving muscles, tendons and nerves of the wrist, hand, fingers, elbow, …

Therefore, here are the vigilance points of the micropipette in terms of health :

Analyse de risque cas du pipetage

A part of the MSP sources can be solved by an electronic pipette whose setting steps and pipetting will be managed by a simple impulsion which doesn’t required any particular force.

In parallel of the pipette’s choice, it is also essential to arrange the workplace with furniture of dimensions and characteristics suitable for technicians as well as arrange the workplan to limit the repetitive movements for volume samples in different containers, the handling or even the ejection of the cones in the trash.

And that will be the subject of a future article…