While many industries are automated, there are still occupations that require the use of manual hand tools. The construction industry is a perfect example. Electricians and carpenters use a wide variety of hand tools while on the job. Proper hand tool selection is important in reducing the risk of developing injuries called Musculoskeletal Disorders.

MSDs are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Some of the signs of MSDs include tingling or numbness, joint swelling, a decrease in grip strength, aching muscles or fatigue. These type of injuries are not the kind that happen suddenly, such as dropping a 40lb box on your foot. They develop over a period of time where there is repeated exposure to a risk, such as a worker in a wash bay holding a pressure washer for an hour or more every day in their job. However, like an injury caused by a single traumatic event, MSDs can lead to time off work for possible surgery and recovery or lost production time and costs that can escalate due to worker injury claims.

The problem with MSDs caused by hand tools is that they often get overlooked since the injury is not immediate. Fortunately, armed with a little bit of knowledge on the risks for injury, these type of injuries can be prevented. Here are some of the causes of MSDs due to hand tool use:

    • Awkward postures can be caused by using a tool that doesn’t properly fit the area you are working in.
        • Sometimes you might need to use a pinch grip if the work area is too small, putting extra strain on the fingers.
        • At times, a tool that is too long for a small work area requires greater force.



    • Excessive temperatures can cause you to grip a tool tighter, creating greater pressure and strain on your hands.
    • Working for prolonged periods of time with vibration tools (such as a jackhammer) reduces the blood circulation in the hands.
    • Tools with sharp edges that press into the hand or tools that are too short with the end pressing into the hand causes stress on the soft tissues.


There are easy solutions to these risks. There are many hand tools available that are designed to reduce the risk of injury. So now it’s time to go through your toolbox, toss out the ones that are causing you discomfort and go to your local hardware store with these points in mind:

    • The tool should never feel awkward or uncomfortable.
    • The tool size should be appropriate for your hand size.
    • Make sure it is the proper size or is adjustable to suit the size of the work area.
    • Softer, rubber-like texture around the handles help increase your grip so less force is needed, minimizing the pressure on the hand.
    • The grip span of a tool, such as pliers, should not be too wide when open or too narrow when closed.
    • Avoid tools that have a sharp edge in the grip area.
    • Tools that are already angled means you don’t have to bend your wrist, which is awkward.
    • Make sure the tool handle is long enough so it doesn’t press into your palm.
    • Wear gloves when working in cold environments or to reduce vibration.


EWI Works can help you find more information on hand tool selection. Contact us at 780-436-0024 or by email at info@ewiworks.com.