Understanding hand tool ergonomics

Understanding hand tool ergonomics

Understanding hand tool ergonomics

Hand tools are for industrial mechanics extensions of their hands. When it comes to a new addition to a millwright's toolbox, tool performance and comfort should be the two most important selection criteria.

Comfort is paramount for a worker in the industrial setting. While it may seem like a secondary concern compared to making sure the job gets done, you can actually perform better if you are able to comfortably use your hand tools.

Ergonomics is the science behind using tools and limiting discomfort, fatigue and injury. There is a lot that goes into the design of a hand tool. Beyond ensuring long lasting durability, they need to rest comfortably in your hand, and should be used repeatedly with minimal strain on your body. The following are a series of tips to help you find and use high quality hand tools without strain.

1. Identify early signs of tool discomfort
How can you tell if your hand tool is ergonomic? The easiest way is to identify when it's not. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, if you experience tingling, swelling in your joints, continual muscle fatigue and other forms of discomfort, then your hand tool is probably not the right fit.

These are symptoms that are not necessarily going to show the first time you pick up a new tool. They develop over time, so if these issues are beginning to crop up, take action now, rather than waiting for them to go away.

2. Find the right feel
Some hand tools are designed with grooves for your fingers. While these may be comfortable for some, because they are pre-fit, they may not be the right groove size for you. All hands come in different sizes, so by trying to fit unnaturally into these grooves, you put excessive pressure on various parts of your grip, according to OHS Online.

One strategy for a comfortable grip on your hand tool is to pick one that has a foam or and flexible plastic grip. One of the most important things to look for is how the tool rests in your hand. The average hand spans about 4 to 6 inches. NIOSH noted that you want the handle to be longer than the length of your hand and make sure that it does not press on any nerves or blood vessels.

3. Consider the application
As important as the tool itself is, you should also consider the way you're using it. This means taking a look at your workspace. Are you working with larger, heavier materials, or do you need to work in tight spaces? Does the job require more precision or power?

Each of these factors will influence what the right tool for the job will be. If your handle is a pinch grip but requires a power grip for example, you can hurt your wrist because you need to exert greater effort. Also, consider where you are performing the job. If you need to raise your elbow or shoulder to complete a task, you are putting yourself in a position to create fatigue, according to NIOSH. Consider lowering your work bench or standing to make sure your muscles are relaxed and can better exert force.

At the end of the day, ergonomics is all about comfort and performance. You need to balance both. The best hand tools will allow you to perform without having to strain yourself, so make sure to consider these factors the next time you make a tool purchase.