Tool selection is of critical importance for user safety, comfort and health. However even the best tool on the market will not transform a poorly designed workstation into a safe and comfortable one for the operator.
Many work space components such as work surfaces, seats, flooring, tools, equipment, environmental conditions, etc., determine whether or not the job is safe and healthy. If the workplace design does not meet your physical needs, it can create risk factors for discomfort, aches and pains, fatigue, and eventually, WMSDs. On the other hand, in a well-designed workplace, where you have the opportunity to choose from a variety of well-balanced working positions and to change between them frequently, work can be carried out safely and injury-free.
Avoid bending over your work; instead keep your back straight and, if possible, elevate the work area or task to a comfortable level. Keep your elbows close to the body, and reduce the need to stretch your arms overhead or out in front of you. Tool extensions can help where it is difficult to reach the object of work. Using a stepladder or step-stool can improve the working body position where the task requires elevating your arms above the shoulder. At the same time, frequent stretching breaks will relieve any built-up muscle tension. If standing, distribute your weight evenly between the feet. Even better, use a foot stool or rail to rest your legs, and shift from one to the other periodically.
Proper chairs and sit/stand stools offer support during many hand tool tasks -- read more about these in our OSH Answers documents on Working in a Sitting Position, and Working in a Standing Position. Consider the use of anti-fatigue mats.
In assembly work, static load, awkward postures and forceful movements are major risk factors for WMSDs. Prolonged standing and the fatigue resulting from it additionally contribute to WMSDs.
Document last updated on February 17, 2012