Power Tool Specification Goes Beyond Speed, Power
Part two of a four-part article on power tools
Specification of power tools goes beyond simply assessing size, speed and power. Nearly 50 percent of workers compensation claims involve musculoskeletal disorders. As cordless tools become more popular and powerful, managers need to address ergonomics and safety due to increased risk of repetitive-stress injury.
Manufacturers have addressed these concerns with updated materials and designs. Tool features such as narrower, rubberized grips are designed for easier gripping, as is the tool geometry. Earlier tools featured a vertical grip between the motor or drive and the battery pack, while newer models have an inclined grip that significantly reduces wrist flexing.
Torque arms also enable better control by spreading the torque over both hands and arms. Built-in LEDs illuminate shadows and reveal hidden dangers at the darkest work sites. Advances in battery cooling — such as better electronic technology and more heat-conductive, lighter housings — improve ergonomics and safety. Also, new lithium ion batteries have safer chemical formulations that help prevent overheating.
Even with the best ergonomic power tool designs, some stressful situations are inevitable in maintenance, due to the variety of work site situations, positions, and repetitiveness that maintenance technicians experience. Ergonomic risks generally arise from factors related to posture, force, stress, vibration and repetitiveness, though some situations involve multiple safety and ergonomic risk factors, such as using an impact hammer, where high vibration and noise accompany the use of force.
In such situations, proper positioning of the technician, the use of eye, ear, and hand protection, and proper tool design such as torque arm use, all play a part. An ergonomic job assessment can identify jobs with increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders and help train technicians to recognize and avoid risks. Smart employers ensure that technicians have access to the necessary stress-avoidance information and proper tool use training for long-term health and productivity.