Mitigating hand tool fatigue, injury through ergonomics

Design & Automation Update - Design & Automation Update

Reduce lost time and additional costs by giving users the best tools with their safety in mind.

October 14, 2022

Medical tool ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing instruments so people and things interact efficiently and safely. Ergonomic advances occur through scientific research.

This particularly applies to medical equipment. It’s only through research, analysis, and testing that proper ergonomics are developed. Incorporating appropriate weight, balance, size, and function while delivering an optimal experience isn’t left to chance.

An effective medical tool is developed by running rigorous tests on metal strength, identifying the proper shape, feel, and comfort, and executing minuscule fine-tuning of the design relating to performance.

For example, a tool will be created differently if it needs a cutting capacity suitable for heavy metals, such as stainless steel and titanium, versus one that needs to be effective on a light material like copper. An increased cutting capacity will also significantly impact the ergonomic design because if the metal is harder, the strain on the user shouldn’t be. Better performance of a medical tool means safety of the tool increases as well.

Scientific research and testing of medical tools can lead to new developments and successes. There have been great advances in medical tool functionality, usability, materials, and design. These advances lead to properly designed ergonomic tools and improve the likelihood of success.

Repetitive movements can lead to fatigue, pain, and injury. Proper tool ergonomics can mitigate those issues. Lindström’s Precision Carbide Diagonal Cutters with Tapered Head for Hard Materials 7154 TC.
All photos courtesy of Lindström Precision Tools
Giving medical professionals a tool that works in tight spaces while reducing stress on the body can increase productivity.
A well-designed ergonomic tool can alleviate the problems associated with frequent, precise, and meticulous motions. Lindström’s Precision Carbide Diagonal Cutters with Tapered Head for Hard Materials 7154 TC.

Science + experience

While lab research and testing are critical to proper ergonomic development, working with individuals in the medical field and understanding how they use tools every day is another important area of research and advancement. A medical professional’s years of experience can help determine what should and shouldn’t go into the tool and its ergonomic design.

Real-world applications often provide the best intel. If a tool is repeatedly used with a certain angle of approach, that might impact overall weight, balance, grip, and shape. A medical professional using tools daily knows exactly what repetitive movement and what kind of design most negatively impacts their hands.

Factors such as hand size, workstation configuration, and ambient temperature and humidity can change how a tool needs to function. A medical professional using a tool in a medical setting is often the only way to hone the finished product. This feedback improves the tool’s overall design, ergonomics, and performance.

Field testing is a necessary form of research providing data that can’t be ascertained through computer simulations and internal testing. Tool field testing is critical in identifying the safety, performance, and effectiveness of real-world applications.

Function, feel, and safety

Creating an ergonomic design is achieved by equally understanding the tool’s function and how it physically impacts the user. While lost work time and disability claims are important considerations, one of the most influential motives in a purchasing decision should be if the tool hurts or helps worker safety.

An important safety aspect of a quality tool is whether it’s certified electrostatic discharge safe. An electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs when one object (human or technological) transfers its charge, damaging the device, and injuring the person. An ESD-certified tool, typically created with a two-component synthetic material in the handle, stops the sudden flow of electrons between two objects and eliminates the discharge.

ESD is more harmful than many medical professionals realize. Because it’s difficult to see and feel the damage occurring, injuries might not be perceptible. Over time, this can result in hidden yet significant trauma.

To improve worker safety, facilities containing electrostatically sensitive products, equipment, and supplies must use certified ESD equipment to protect their employees and safeguard their products from damage.

Importance of ergonomics

If fatigue, pain, and injury restrict operator productivity and decrease the enjoyment of everyday life at work, home, or during leisure activities, it negatively impacts an entire organization.

Employees who understand ergonomics recognize when they’re given instruments that provide the best results for their health and safety. When they know they are being taken care of, that can encourage a culture of care and safety where employees feel appreciated. That can create a more positive workplace, improving employee retention.

When medical professionals can use quality ergonomic tools, the instances of fatigue and injury decrease, lost time and increased claim costs diminish, and overall operator health and satisfaction contribute to a better, safer work environment.

About the author: Ian Weber is an expert in the field of medical tools and manages sales of Lindström Precision Tools, the standard in the field of medical device manufacturing. He can be reached at Ian.J.Weber@snapon.com.

Lindström Precision Tools https://www.lindstromtools.com/us_en/