Laboratory chairs and stools – how to protect your health

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laboratory

Chairs and stools used in laboratories are quite different to normal office chairs. Laboratories typically have high workbenches and require adjustable chairs with footrings and no armrests. Forensics labs, hospital laboratories, teaching environments and doctors offices all use these seats. Because they are subjected to heavy duty use, lab stools are often strengthened and made from easily cleaned materials. Laboratory chairs in South Africa differ markedly in price, so selecting the right one for your application is important. To reduce the risks commonly attributed to long periods of sitting, a laboratory chair should include ergonomic design principles.

Selecting chairs for laboratory use

Apart from special hygiene features, laboratory chairs should take up little space while still offering good ergonomics and seating comfort. In South Africa, there are a wide variety of lab chairs available at various price points. Before selecting a chair, you should consider the following:

 a. Hours usage per day

How many hours per day will you sit on the chair? For example, a fixed height (non-adjustable) laboratory stool is suitable for schools and other teaching laboratories where tasks are usually short (1-2 hours). Height adjustable chairs are more suited to a research laboratory where tasks are longer in duration. In blood analysis labs that run 24/7, you would probably need a lab stool with heavy duty features and good ergonomics. 

b. Height of the working surface

The height of the work bench in a laboratory depends on the particular setup. They may be a fixed height or adjustable, and often the benches are higher than a standard office desk. If the work bench is higher, an adjustable ergonomic laboratory chair with a footring will be required. The footring should be stable and not rotate around the gas lifter and become a potential safety issue.

Round PU Stool - draughting conversion. Adjustable heavy duty laboratory chair with nugen footring that is the most stable and price competitive footring in South Africa
Round PU laboratory stool with a NUGEN footring

Karo’s NUGEN footring

The NUGEN footring is bolted to a specially-made lower column and cannot come loose and rotate around the gas lifter.

The NUGEN the most stable and price competitive footring available for laboratory chairs in South Africa.

c. Manoeuvrability

Laboratories usually have hard floors and not carpets. Chairs fitted with castors, or wheels, are often necessary to allow you to easily move into position. Soft or rubber-rimed castors are better for a hard floor as they ensure the chair will move easily over the surface.

Lab stools and manoeuvrability

In a teaching laboratory like a school or university, tasks are usually short (1-2 hours).

In these laboratories, 4-legged stools or ones with glides (not castors), are common.

Sit-Stand Polyurethane Operators is a price competitive laboratory chair in South Africa
Sit-Stand lab stool fitted with glides

d. Environment is key for heavy duty lab stools

Most laboratories operate in a hygienic environment. Chairs must be easily cleaned and disinfected. Because it is non-porous and easily wiped down, vinyl upholstery is better than fabric. For heavy duty labs, chairs and stools should be covered with self-skinning polyurethane (PU) foam. PU chairs are extremely hard wearing and very easy to clean.

PU Lab Chairs

Self skinning PU foam is created using a two part polyurethane process. This creates a lightweight flexible foam core, which is encased in a thick outer protective “skin” that is extremely durable and easy to clean.

Delta Industrial Chair. Adjustable heavy duty laboratory chair available in South Africa at a competitive price
Delta PU Lab chair
PU “protective skin” that covers the internal metal core of the Delta PU Lab chair

In an electronics laboratory, static electricity charges must be avoided because they can damage sensitive electronic equipment. ESD Chairs are Electrostatic Dissipative and include special conductive upholstery and castors to prevent the build-up of static electricity.

Chairs for electronics laboratories

ESD chairs are made to divert the static charges safely through the floor.

Chairs used in electronics laboratories must be upholstered with special conductive fabrics or vinyls, and fitted with conductive (ESD) castors.

ESD castor for electronics laboratory chairs
ESD castor

f. Ergonomics and heavy duty lab stools

Back problems are common for people who spend many hours looking into microscopes or preparing specimens. A badly adjusted chair can raise the risk of Muscular Skeletal Disease (MSD). With a good ergonomic laboratory chair, you can achieve effort-free movement and a proper seating posture. This directly reduces fatigue and other health-related issues associated with sitting for extended periods.

g. Cost of heavy duty laboratory chairs

As in any country, the price of laboratory chairs in South Africa will play a roll in the selection process. However, this should not be the only criteria. A lab chair that is adjustable and provides good ergonomic support will reduce the risk of back pain and other ailments. In a 24/7 laboratory, a heavy-duty chair or stool is essential as you want it to last.


Author: Mike Karle
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
21 Feb 2021

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