What Makes a Tool an Ergonomics Tool?

There is no such thing as an ergonomics tool, said a speaker today at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Fla.

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There is no such thing as an ergonomics tool, said a speaker Tuesday at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

When determining what type of hand tool provides the best ergonomic conditions, it''s not the tool that counts, but how the tool is used, according to Robert Radwin, Ph.D., CPE, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"There is no such thing as an ergonomics tool per se," Radwin told attendees Tuesday at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. A tool''s application determines whether it is ergonomically designed, said Radwin, who spoke about ergonomics principles for selecting industrial hand tools.

A tool is an ergonomics tool if it is suitable for the task in which the tool is intended to be used. If a tool is used incorrectly, Radwin said, it is not an ergonomics tool.

To determine whether a hand tool is ergonomically suitable, the tool should:

  • Minimize forces, movements, and thermal and vibration exposures;
  • Have mechanical advantages and features that reduce exertion and force required by the operator; and
  • If a power tool, imparts the least force against the operator.

Different tools can satisfy the same process engineering requirements, Radwin said. Thus, choose which tool is best by quantitatively determining the one that minimizes exertion the most.

"You need to look at the whole job" to select the best hand tool, Radwin said. This means considering other factors such as a tool''s balance and handle location, a worker''s posture, work location, and tool speed and reaction.

"A worker''s posture has a great influence on the amount of hand force that must be exerted and the worker''s ability to operate the tool," he said. Generally, the best posture is one that is upright and allows the worker to use the tool close to his body.

by Todd Nighswonger

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