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by Jennie Gober, CPE

If you’re an “Ergo Nerd” like myself and the rest of us here at VelocityEHS, you’ve probably noticed everyday items that are poorly designed.  (My colleagues Lauren and Christy recently posted about their own experiences with poorly designed bank drive-throughs and fuel gauges.)  I have a similar design pet peeve:  handles.  Handles are on everything, from hose sprayers to air tools to snow shovels (something we became very familiar with here in Michigan this winter).  Here are three things that are commonly wrong with most handles:

  1. Finger grooves and recesses.  If you look at many hose nozzles, you’ll notice they have grooves for your fingers.  But whose hand are they designed for?  The average sized hand?  If I hold a nozzle with my hands, it usually results in an awkward posture as I stretch my small hands to fit into the grooves.  Often times, we find that “one size fits all” really means “one size fits none”.  When looking for a tool with a handle, avoid the ones that have finger grooves and recesses.
  2. Handle diameter.  I have to confess – I would much rather peruse the tool aisle at Sears than go to a shoe store.  What I’ve noticed, though, is that many handles on tools are either too big or too small.  I feel like Goldilocks, looking for the handle that is “just right”.  The  optimal handle diameter is 1.6″.  If we must compromise, the acceptable range is between 1.2″ and 2.0″.
  3. Handle Surface.  Many handles have a very smooth surface.  Picture a hammer, an axe, or even an air wrench.  The smooth handles of these tools may result in you gripping harder to hold the handle, increasing your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.  Ensure that handles have a textured or knurled surface (think of an Olympic weight bar) to reduce the amount of grip required to hold the tool.

Avoiding these three common design issues can help you make sure you’ve got a handle on your handles!