The University of the Science’s Dr. Paula Kramer, PhD, chair and professor of occupational therapy shares the key ergonomic tools and garden tool features designed to make gardening easier in a report she wrote for the University. Here is a recap of the main points she made in her report on ergonomic garden tools:
-One-Piece Construction: Trowels, weeders, and cultivators made from one piece of metal from the top to the bottom allow for less possibility of breakage in the tool.
-Padded Handles: Hand tools with fat, padded handles and textured non-slip grips allow for a tight grip under damp conditions. Tools with extendable handles help for reaching difficult areas and accommodate a person’s height. These long-handled tools should have some flexibility, but not too much. Telescopic and pistol-grip handles require less energy and keep the body in proper alignment.
-Spring-Action: Sheers, pruners, and clippers with a spring-action, self-opening feature help to prevent strain on the muscles and joints, but they should be well-oiled to open and close easily.
-Modified Shaft: Rakes, hoes, and forks with a bend in the shaft make the upper part of the handle work in a more horizontal position than normal, enabling a person to have more upright posture and a fist grip at the end.
-Garden Caddy: Functional caddies can help protect your knees and back from strain and stooping with built in knee pads, a platform for sitting, and a vessel to easily transport tools, mulch, and heavy items.
“Ergonomic tools are designed around the gardener,” says Kramer. “They can significantly reduce discomfort and fatigue and reduce injuries.”
Ergonomic tools look radically different than normal gardening tools. Modern garden tool design includes ergonomics considerations. Tools are being designed that induce ever less stress on the human body when used. The most efficient tools keep the body in a neutral position while being used. This helps to lessen the stress on joints and muscles. An advantage of this approach is that it requires gardeners to exert less energy whilst using the tools.
Dr. Kramer cautions that not all “ergonomic” tools are created equal. “Just because a tool says it is ergonomic doesn’t mean it’s ergonomic for you,” she concludes. “Try the tool out – it must fit your needs and your body.”
For more on ergonomic tools, including those you use in the garden, I suggest reading Objectivity: A Desinger’s Book of Curious Tools.