Ergonomic hand tools are in almost every home improvement or hardware store. Devices labeled as “ergonomically enhanced” have a design that makes it more efficient to use while reducing fatigue and discomfort and minimizing injury risk.
Having a supply of industrial ergonomic hand tools available for your employees can help to reduce the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Let’s look at what constitutes an ergonomic design and how to make the best choice when it comes to tools.
What are Ergonomic Hand Tools?
For a hand tool to be considered ergonomic, it should be safe to operate with one hand. The center of the tool’s gravity should be aligned with the gripping hand, making it feel comfortable to hold in the position intended for use.
Ergonomic handles for hand tools should be cushioned and non-slip. Handles should be relative to the instrument’s size, with smaller devices having smaller handles and bigger tools having larger handles.
Evaluating the Ergonomic Design of Hand Tools
Managers and administrators involved in the purchase of work tools review ergonomic guidelines. These guidelines’ development is to ensure the job demands didn’t exceed human capabilities without causing permanent work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Before beginning your search into ergonomic hand tool design, start by asking yourself these questions:
- Who will use the tool? (worker’s anthropometry and gender)
- What is the work surface orientation of the tool? (i.e., where will it be used?)
- What are the specific task requirements?
- What will be the tool’s function?
Ergonomic Handle Design
When choosing ergonomic tools, consider grip diameter on the single-handle tools such as hammers, nut drivers, wrenches, and screwdrivers. Larger diameters allow workers to grip these tools more comfortably and reduces stress on the hands, wrists, and fingers.
Single-handle tool diameters should range from one and a quarter inch to two inches to help prevent tool slippage. Of course, there are times where the work requires more delicacy. If that is the case, and a smaller tool is necessary, use single-handed tools with a grip of quarter inch to half inch”.
For double-handled tools, the grip span is more important. Tools such as snips and cable cutters should have a closed grip span of no more than two inches and an open grip span of no more than three inches. Jobs with small components or parts should use tools with no less than a one inch closed grip span—no more than three inches open.
Most tool designers adhere to the crucial ergonomic principle of bend the tool, not the wrist. As such, many have bent handles. The best use of bent handled tools is on the same plane and height as the arm and hand, allowing the worker to exert force in a straight line.
Handle length is a bit more subjective. To ensure that the handle is long enough and won’t have the ends pressing into the delicate pressure-sensitive nerves, hold your hand palm-up with fingers closed and thumb against the side. The tool’s handle should be longer than the broadest part of the hand to be safe.
Tool weight has an overall effect on how ergonomic the tool is. The exact weight limit for a hand tool varies depending on the job and how it is held.
For tools that require only one hand, it is best if the device weighs no more than three pounds. However, power tools used away from the body or above shoulder height may weigh up to five pounds. Tools used in precision operations shouldn’t weigh more than one pound.
The weight of the tool should be evenly distributed to allow for a better, more comfortable grip. The center of gravity should be so that it centers with the gripping hand, producing less strain.
Power Hand Tools
Power tools are often used in place of manual tools to help lower the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
When picking a power tool to replace manual ones, look for ergonomic grip designs that reduce stress on the hand. Many power tools can lead to frequent movement in the index finger, which poses a risk for the development of tendonitis in the index finger/thumb, also known as “trigger finger” and “trigger thumb.” Using a device with a longer trigger that requires at least two fingers to activate can mitigate this hazard.
Vibration in the power tool is also essential. All power tools that vibrate cause workers to have to work harder to keep the device steady when using. Instruments with built-in anti-vibration or vibration-canceling features reduce that stress.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders affect muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints. By keeping the workers’ job requirements in mind, it is easier to choose the appropriate tools. Having ergonomic hand tools available for workers can minimize workplace hazards and injuries.