Features to Look For in Ergonomic Tools

Size and weight are among the key characteristics to consider when searching for tools that will minimize user strain and fatigue

Features to Look For in Ergonomic Tools

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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series about ergonomic tool design. Read the first part, “The Many Benefits of Ergonomic Tools.”

As ergonomic tool design becomes the standard, understanding basic ergonomic features to look for when making a purchase will help ensure you are investing in the best equipment for your team. 

Two initial features to look at are the size and weight of the tool. Advances in technology are enabling tools to become smaller and lighter, both minimizing strain and fatigue for the user while increasing productivity on the job site. Looking for the smallest and lightest tools to meet the demands of your typical jobs is ideal. 

Beyond these two key areas, additional features to look for are:  

  • Tools that are well balanced, lightweight, and can ideally be operated with one hand. The weight will vary depending on the use of the tool. 
  • In the case of hand or press tools, the center of gravity should be aligned with the center of the gripping hand. In other words, the tool should feel "easy" to hold either in an upright position or in the position it will be used. 
  • For tools being used for precision work, the handles and grips of hand tools should have a “power grip.” Handle diameter recommendations vary, but in general, cylindrical handles at 1 1/2 to 2 inches offer a better power grip. For precision grips, a diameter of 1 1/4 inches is recommended. The larger diameter will allow for maximum torque, while the smaller diameter helps with dexterity and speed.
  • To ensure a good grip on a handle, sufficient friction must exist between the hand and the handle and remain consistent even with a sweaty hand. Hand tools should be made of non-slip, non-conductive and compressible materials such as textured rubber that help keep the tool from slipping out of the hand. 
  • To avoid tendinitis in the index finger, otherwise known as “trigger finger,” look for solutions that allow for the use of two or three fingers to activate switches to reduce discomfort and minimize the risk for injury.
  • Large drain cleaning tools should feel balanced during transport and use. Use proper lifting and form when maneuvering stairs or into work vehicles to avoid injury. When in operation, any information the user might need should be visually accessible and large enough for the user to see. Smaller, hand-held drain cleaners should feel comfortable when managing the cable to ensure the user is in control. 

Minor aches and pains add up over time, taking individuals off the job site for injuries or down a different career path entirely. Using tools with even just a few of the above features will go a long way in reducing this physical strain and injury. 

About the Author

Billy Yrad is a senior industrial designer for RIDGID, a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at RIDGID.com.



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