Hand tools are used in a wide variety of industries to accomplish both large and small tasks. Improperly using these tools can cause fatigue, strain, and other injuries. Follow the guidelines outlined below to help you avoid these types of injuries and keep your employees safe.
Your behaviors and habits can prevent ergonomic injuries when using hand tools:
- Keep a variety of tools handy, and choose the right one for the job.
- Grip tools firmly, but not too tightly.
- Use tools with a reasonable amount of force, but do not strain.
- If you can, switch hands throughout the day.
- Rotate your tasks throughout the day.
- Take micro-breaks every 20-30 minutes, and move around.
Correct body positioning can help prevent injury.Avoid awkward postures that cause you to bend, stoop, kneel, or reach repetitively or over long periods:
- Get close to your work.
- Ideally work between waist and chest level.
- Work with your arms and shoulders relaxed, not hunched.
- Work with a straight back and neck.
- Keep your wrists straight while you work.
- Avoid contact stress by padding surfaces when kneeling.
Hand tool choices can also help prevent injury. Consider the type of task when you choose a tool. Fine tasks may use smaller, lighter tools for delicate maneuvering and fitting into small work areas. Power tasks such as driving nails and cutting bulky objects may require large, heavy tools with bigger grips. Choose a tool that:
- Fits comfortably in your handgrip.
- Has the correct handle length for the job.
- Allows you to pinch for precision or grip for power actions.
Other tool characteristics to look for:
- Spring-loaded tools that snap back to position easily.
- Smooth tool handles with no ridges or edges that can cut into your knuckles or palms.
- Handles coated with a soft material.
- Handles coated with non-slip materials.
- Tools that have the correct handle angle to help you keep your wrist straight during the task.
Watch for signs and symptoms that indicate you may have a problem with your hand tools. Tell your supervisor and see your doctor if you notice:
- Pain or swelling.
- Excessive, continuing fatigue.
- Tingling or numbness.
- Decreased range of motion.
- Decreased grip strength.
Choosing hand tools that help you work in a good position with fewer repeated motions and less force can reduce your ergonomic risks.