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Hand Tool Ergonomics - Introduction

Are hand tools ergonomically designed?

The history of hand tools is as old as the history of mankind. In fact, the invention of hand tools by our ancestors marked the beginning of the development of human civilization. Once invented, hand tools grew and evolved along with us as an extension of our own hand.

Basic hand tool design has not changed appreciably over the last several centuries. To be an effective "ergonomic" tool, it must decrease the physical demands placed on the people using the tool. Tools should be designed, and selected for how well they take into account the following factors:

  • Process engineering requirements - tools will help meet production goals while meeting need for precision, materials, etc.
  • Human operator limitations
    • Physical characteristics and limitations (anthropometry)
    • Biomechanics - structure, strength and mobility
    • Fatigue
    • Manual dexterity
  • Workstation and task factors

The mass production of hand tools has also changed our approach to the use of hand tools. The use of tools on an industrial scale made it apparent that using a tool which does not fit the person or task can seriously affect a user's health (see Hand Tool Ergonomics - Health Hazards).

Selecting the proper tool for the job and fitting it to the individual has become very important for productivity and worker health. The ergonomic evaluation of work where hand tools are used has helped people to understand that the layout of the workstation (see Hand Tool Ergonomics - Workspace Design), the variety and scheduling of tasks, (see Hand Tool Ergonomics - Job Design) and the way tools are used, are all factors as important as tool design itself (see Hand Tool Ergonomics - Tool Design).

Document last updated on May 2, 2011
Document confirmed current on December 1, 2017

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