Hand Tool Ergonomics

Tools have been used since the dawn of time but only recently have people started paying attention to how tools are designed in relation to those who use them. Craftsmen spend their entire adult lives using hand tools. Carpenters, masons, wall-painters, repairmen, farmers and many other professionals will have some sort of a hand tool on them more often than not.

hand tools

All of these tools require energy to be used and utilized; specifically, they require muscle energy of those who wield them. Look at your hand. You (and everyone else with a normal, healthy hand) have 27 bones in your hand alone and numerous blood vessels, tendons and connecting tissues. When you work with hand tools you put strain on those bones and after a while you might develop chronic pain and damage them. This is why it is important that hand tools are ergonomically designed. Ergonomics is a scientific discipline that studies how humans interact with other elements inside a given system and applies findings through design in order to facilitate use of everyday objects.

Most hand tools require either a power grip or a precision grip. Power grip is required by tools such as hammers and wood saws while a precision grip is required to use pens, small screwdrivers, nails and paint brushes. Both of these grips exert different tolls on the bones in our hands and it is of paramount importance that the handles fit in our hand perfectly. Having a good grip on a hand tool helps minimized damage that occurs with constant use and reduces the risk of accidents.

This is when hand tool ergonomics comes in to play. Repetitive action, poorly positioned wrist and excessive bending of the wrist will cause hand pain. If a handle of a hand tool is not properly designed the amount of pressure on our fingers, wrist and palm will be exceedingly high and will eventually lead to an injury. However, if the handle has been designed with ergonomics in mind the risk of injury will dramatically decrease. Let us take a look at a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing any sort of hand tool.

First, consider the weight of any particular tool. You should be able to comfortably carry and use it for four to five hours a day if you are a professional. Handling tools that are too heavy for you to use will only expedite deterioration of the bones and tendons in your hand. It is preferable to have to hit that nail a few extra times than to lug around a needlessly heavy hammer on the off chance that you nail it in the first go.

Secondly, take a close look at your hands. Always choose hand tools that fit your hand size. If a tool is too small or too large you will have difficulty using it and your wrists and hands may bend into uncomfortable positions as a result.

Handles of hand tools should be made of materials that are non-porous and non-conductive. This means that they do not soak up sweat and oils and do not conduct heat and electricity. Slightly rubberized handles will provide some cushioning for your palm and are generally a good idea. If the tool in question requires a power grip, then you want a large surface to grab on to when it comes to the handle. Diameter of about 1.7 to 1.8 inches would be ideal (depending on your hand size of course). If it is a precision tool then the diameter of 0.4 to 0.6 inches would be acceptable (again, if your hand is smaller you might need a smaller diameter handle on your precision tool). The length of the handle should be such that it allows for a full grip – meaning that the handle should by no means end inside your palm. A short handle can compress palm tissue and cause discomfort and injury.

Always take great care to choose hand tools that fit your needs and, more importantly, fit your hand! Quality hand tool makers make their tools with the end user in mind and you should take your time to find that set of screwdrivers that will fit you like a glove. This will save you money, time and considerable pain later on in your life!


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