Job Design Tips for Ergonomic Hand Tool Use

Selecting the proper tool for the job and fitting it to the individual is
important for productivity and worker health; however even people working at a
correctly designed workstation and using the best available tools can get
injured if their work is poorly designed. If you work with hand tools or plan
the work of those who do, here are some tips for work organization to help
prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Change it up

Jobs that use only one kind of tool for one or a few tasks, using the same
movement and same part of the body, can overload those muscles, ligaments,
tendons or tissues and cause pain and injury. A job that involves a variety of
tasks allows you to change your body position to distribute the workload over
different parts of the body, and to give overused muscles some relief and
recovery time.

Rotate tasks among workers that are different in the type of movement and body
parts used, having them move from one task to another according to a schedule.
Add more tasks to the job.

Assign a larger part of work to a team of workers with each member sharing
several different tasks.

Pace - don't race

A fast pace of work is a strong risk factor for MSDs. If the pace is too fast,
the muscles involved do not have enough time to recover from the effort and
restore enough energy to continue the work. If the pace of work is imposed
externally - assembly line speed, for example - adjust it to the speed that is
acceptable for the slowest worker. Incentive systems that reward for the
quality of work naturally determine the "right" pace of work. In contrast,
incentive systems that reward for the amount or quantity of work increase the
risk for MSDs and may affect quality as well.

Break it up

Work and rest breaks provide time for the muscles you are using on the job to
rest and recover, and help prevent injury. The work break is a time period
(even short periods of time, literally seconds) between tasks which allow you
to relax muscles involved in operating tools. Rest breaks, the period after
work stops, not only allow for refreshment, but also can be used to stretch and

Take time to adjust

When returning to work after a long absence, or when starting a new job, you
should have an adjustment or acclimatization period to get in shape. It should
allow you to refresh old work habits or get used to a new routine. An
adjustment period is a very important part of injury prevention. Inexperienced
and new workers, as well as "old timers" returning to work after a period of
recovery and rehabilitation, are more prone than most workers to both injury
and re-injury.


Training workers on the safe use of tools, and on the hazards involved in
working with them, has always been extremely important. As new materials, new
technologies, and new equipment replace older ones faster then ever before, the
importance of training is even greater. Before introducing a new tool or
equipment, as well as any change in the way the job has been done previously,
the worker should be given refresher training that includes new information
about the changes being introduced. Even the best-designed tool, or the most
ergonomically correct workstation, or the most up-to-date work organization
will fail to prevent injuries if the worker is not properly trained.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety