By Raffii Elchemmas
Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders are common and costly types of injuries, creating possible lifelong problems for the sufferer and affecting safety records for employers. Research is starting to suggest a correlation exists between tool usage and the most common types of MSD cases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger tendonitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, lower back injuries, knee bursitis, and elbow epicondylitis.
It’s clear that quality workplace ergonomics are good for both employee health and an employer’s bottom line. Here’s some simple tips to improve the overall impact on your body while working with tools:
1. Keep your wrist straight, in a neutral position.
Stay conscious of keeping your wrist in a neutral position always, with your wrist in alignment with your forearm or the “handshake” position. Doing this will help you properly bend your wrists which can decrease your risks of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. At Milwaukee, ergonomics begins in the design phase of the process. Often, users are dealing with 5- or 6-pound handheld tool that they need to hold for extended periods of time. The goal is to create a balanced tool that will decrease muscle effort. Tools like the M18 FUEL™ ½” Hammer Drill/Driver are specifically designed with handles to put less pressure on the wrist and facilitate a more natural grip.
2. Use low force trigger engagements.
As battery-powered tools continue to replace cumbersome hand tools, correlations are being drawn between constant trigger use and trigger finger tendonitis. Ensure you’re utilizing tools that reduce the force needed to engage the trigger.
3. Use only the amount of force necessary for the task.
Overexertion and working in awkward postures can cause inflammation of the tendon you’re using. Fully positioning your hand on the tool allows for greater force to be applied without overexerting yourself.
4. Use power tools when available and select the correct handle orientation.
Elbow Epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, is common for tradesmen. This type of injury is due to overexertion while operating tools in an awkward posture. This can be substantially reduced by switching to battery-operated solutions such a high torque impact wrench. Let the tool do much of the exertion for you.
5. Work near elbow height.
Overhead work causes a wide range of potential problems, one of which is potential to tear your rotator cuff. Using accessories specially made to help you extend your reach, such as Milwaukee’s QUIK-LOK™ Extensions, or taking an extra step while climbing up the ladder will allow you to work in your power zone (below shoulders, above the waist).
In addition to the proper protective equipment and a thorough understanding of how to operate the tools in use, the guidelines above can help employers and their employees work more safely on the jobsite and reduce the overall risk of injury.