Ergonomic tools: Science or fiction?

In the Reliability Forum department of Reliable Plant magazine, companies provide their insights to a question posed by editor Paul V. Arnold. This issue, the call went out to makers of hand tools. They were asked:

"How can plant workers know that the 'ergonomic' hand tools that they are buying and using are truly ergonomic in form and function?"

This response was provided by the folks at Bahco.

"Some people are naturally experts on ergonomics. The rest of us have to study, research and educate ourselves. As we do this, we discover that not everything that's called ergonomic is ergonomic. The word 'ergonomics' can easily be misused. And, not everyone who uses the word is necessarily an expert. "Ergonomics is the science of optimizing the interplay between people and the environment according to the principle of 'adapting the work to the person'. It is necessary to take into account each person's natural preconditions, as well as his or her limitations, when designing tools, working methods and workplaces.

"Each time you grip a tool, you put 42 different muscles to work. By subjecting yourself to the strain this causes on a daily basis, you risk overexertion, pain or numbness in parts of the hand by using incorrectly designed tools. The constant repetition of some actions causes strain even if they do not feel particularly strenuous at the time.

"The design of ergonomic tools within Bahco is based on a scientifically recognized 11-point program. This program covers facts and experiences gathered from users, ergonomists, industrial designers, research and development departments, as well as extensive testing and trials together with end-users of our tools.

"This method is unique within the tool industry. And to ensure that you can always see which Bahco tools have been developed according to this program, each one is marked with the ERGO symbol."

Learn more at www.bahco.com.

This reply came from John Hedbor, the marketing manager at L.S. Starrett.

"The plant worker should consider four key points. First, does the tool being considered fit the job at hand? Using the wrong tool not only might damage the tool, but also could cause fatigue, pain or injury to the user performing the task.

"Second, can the tool be used in a relaxed work position requiring no awkward positioning of the body? Third, does the tool have a non-slip gripping surface? And fourth, can the tool be used while keeping the wrist straight?"

Learn more at www.starrett.com.


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