Selecting best hand tool for your work
Hand tools has great importance in our life. We should choose the hand tool rightly and use it the way it is meant for.
Choose a tool that…
- Is designed for the job
- Fits your hand size and is comfortable to hold
- Keeps your wrist straight
- Has a handle that extends beyond your palm – no sharp edges
- Requires a minimum of force to use
- Provides balance – doesn’t tip forward or back when held
- Doesn’t exceed the minimum weight required to do the job
Most construction workers use hand tools. Some use them all day long. Using the wrong hand tool, or the right tool the wrong way, can injure the muscles, tendons, or nerves in your hand, wrist, or arm. These types of injuries develop over time. Early symptoms may include achy, tired hands and wrists that feel better after rest. It is easy to just write these off to a hard day’s work – and in some cases you can end up with an injury that might even force you to quit construction work.
Types of injuries include:
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome: pain, tingling, and numbness in the wrist and hand;
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (white finger): numbness in hands and fingers, a loss of touch and grip, and pain.
Tendonitis: difficulty straightening fingers;
Use the tool safely…
- Keep your wrist as straight as possible.
- If the grip is too small, your gloves may help or add a cushion.
- If the grip is too big, change the handle or adjust the size.
- Gloves and anti-vibration wraps will improve grip strength and reduce vibration.
- Use caps or guards on striking tools to avoid overstrike injuries.
- Focus on keeping your hands safe – not just at the start of a job.
- Try to rest your hands during the day.
- Keep your tools sharp and in good condition.
- Consider doing exercises to strengthen key muscles.
- Don’t raise or extend your elbow when holding a heavy tool.
- Use a power tool when you can.
Using the right hand tool the right way can reduce fatigue and increase productivity, improve the quality of your work, and reduce the risk for hand, wrist, and arm injuries.
How Will the Tool Be Used?
Tools serve many purposes in the workplace, and specific tools are designed to accomplish specific tasks. Just because you have a heavy wrench on hand and can’t find a hammer doesn’t mean you should use the wrench to pound something. That may be an obvious example, but consider a more common problem: sometimes you may have the incorrect size tool available, and using it could require you to hold your arm at an odd angle.
The point is you should know what tools a job requires and obtain those tools to get the job done. Common tools include striking tools (like hammers or mallets), driving tools (like screwdrivers or wrenches), cutting/pinching tools (like pliers) and hammered tools (like chisels).
Another consideration when choosing a tool for a task is how that tool will be held. Certain tasks require more force than others, which means tool users will employ different hand positions.
A power grip, which is when a person wraps all fingers around the handle of a tool, provides the most force. Think of the way someone grips a hammer to strike a nail.
A pinch grip (sometimes called a precision grip), on the other hand, is used when a task requires small, accurate movements. The tool user holds the tool between the thumb and fingertips. Think of the way someone grips a screwdriver to remove a screw from a small space.
The type of grip a person will use with a tool helps determine what size tool is necessary for a job, which we will return to in a bit.
A tool must fit the job and it also must fit your hand. To achieve the best fit possible for your hand, one option is to learn your actual hand size. ChooseHandSafety.org, an informational website run by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), provides information about how to measure the size of your hand, your grip and your palm. (The size of your grip is probably the least obvious here; put simply, if you make the okay sign with your hand, your grip size is the diameter of the circle made by your thumb and index finger.)
CPWR also suggests workers can experiment with tools by using them for a while, then adding tape to a tool’s handle to see if the larger size is more comfortable and removing tape if necessary.
What to Look for in a Tool
Non-electric tools like hammers, trowels and brushes may seem simple, but you should consider a number of factors before selecting a tool for a job.
The diameter of a tool’s handle is one of the most important characteristics of a tool because a proper diameter will give you the best grip. For single-handle tools (most tools), NIOSH recommends a handle diameter of 1-¼ inches to 2 inches for tools that will require a power grip and ¼ to ½ inch for tools that will require precision grips. (For even more precise information about the measurements needed for your hand size, visit Choose Hand Safety).
Some tools like pliers, cutters or tweezers have two handles so they are referred to as double-handle tools. If you will use a power grip to complete a task with a double-handle tool, the tool should have an open grip span of 3-½ inches or less and a closed grip span of 2 inches of greater. For tasks that will use the pinch grip, the grip span should be slightly smaller: 3 inches or less when open and 1 inch or more when closed. Take a look at NIOSH’s Guide to Selecting Hand Tools to see more detailed information about these measurements.
As a general rule, you will always want to select a tool whose handle is long enough that its end won’t press into your palm. This typically means the handle must be at least four to six inches long.
A bent wrist can over time become an injured wrist, so always choose tools that allow you to keep your wrist straight while you use them. Sometimes this means the handle will be straight, but other times this might mean the handle is at an angle. For example, if you want to apply force in the same direction as your straight forearm, a bent handle would work better than a straight one.
Also consider whether you will need to use the tool in a small space. If you were using a screwdriver to work inside of a machine, for example, a long handle could get in the way and require you to bend your arm at an angle that is not ergonomic.
When it comes to a tool’s weight, lighter is usually better. At first glance, it might seem like a heavy tool could get the job done faster, but oftentimes a heavy tool will cause worker fatigue sooner and can place extra strain on muscles. Consequently, it’s important to select the lightest tool possible that can still effectively accomplish the task at hand.
Keep in mind that the listed weight of a tool may not include the weight of a handle.
Tool handles are made from a variety of materials including metal, wood and fiberglass. Each material has benefits, but as a user you should think about how the material could impact your safety.
When using a heavier tool like a hammer, the handle will vibrate each time you strike something. Over time, this can cause nerve damage in the hands and wrist. Wood and fiberglass tend to vibrate less than metal, so those materials will likely keep your hands safer when using striking tools.
Additionally, some materials provide a better grip than others, which prevents a tool from slipping out of your hand. Some handles also have anti-slip materials added to them, so look for those features when dealing with tools like hammers or mallets.