Hand tools are popular gift items and Kerri Ebert, project coordinator for the K-State Research and Extension Kansas AgrAbility Project, advises shoppers to consider the needs of the tool user when buying for someone with a limitation, such as arthritis.
Selecting tools with ergonomic features can help decrease repetitive motion stress associated with using the tool.
"The key to helping minimize the chances of repetitive stress injuries caused by hand tools, is to choose tools that will reduce repetitive motion, poor wrist posture, and vibration. It's also important to encourage proper maintenance of tools once they are in use," Ebert says.
To reduce repetitive motion stress, Ebert recommends selecting tools that will eliminate wasted effort, such as socket wrenches that feature ratchets and/or universal sockets, hand tools that open and close with adjustable, spring-loaded returns that eliminate the need to manually reopen the tool's jaws; or self-sizing, locking pliers with spring-loaded returns to eliminate the need to stop and readjust the jaws between jobs. Sometimes power tools help eliminate repetitive motion, however, power tools may increase vibration, noise, safety, and maneuverability issues, so take the users' abilities into consideration when choosing a power tool.
To ease force or grip strength needed to operate the tool, consider selecting tools with longer handles (or telescoping handles) which generally require less force to operate than tools with shorter handles. Thicker handles allow more surface for grasping and, in the case of a standard screwdriver, greater leverage, which decreases the force needed to generate torque. When the thicker handle is also cushioned, grip force is improved and the cushioning provides a measure of slip resistance. Proper maintenance will also keep hand tools operating efficiently, reducing wasted force.
Even when using the proper tool, sometimes a task requires an awkward body position or poor wrist posture. Maintaining a neutral wrist position when using hand tools can help maximize grip efficiency and reduce repetitive strain injuries. Look for tools that promote a neutral, natural wrist positioning, such as hammers designed with a bent or curved handle or tools with a "pistol" grip.
Exposure to vibration in a localized area, such as the user's hand, for prolonged periods, may increase the risk of repetitive strain injury. Look for hand tools, such as hammers, with anti-vibration handles. Some power tools are sold with anti-vibration handles or handle wraps made from materials designed to cushion and reduce vibration. Another method of reducing vibration from hand tools is to purchase anti-vibration gloves with vibration-reducing materials built into the palms.
Kansas AgrAbility provides educational and direct technical assistance services for farmers or farm employees and their families with disabilities or limitations. More information about the Kansas AgrAbility Project is available by visiting the Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu/agrability.