Ergonomically-designed hand tools reduce the risk of back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders from garden chores, and assist enthusiasts whose age or disabilities limit their gardening activity. The challenge is choosing the right tools.
There is no shortage on the market of tools labelled “ergonomic.” Well stocked garden centers carry them or can order them, and many online retailers stock them.
The makers’ web sites are a good way to become acquainted with the potential benefits of one brand – or design – over another. A search for “ergonomic garden tools” on the Internet turns up scores of results. They include Fiskar, Ames and Felco, long-established manufacturers of garden tools who have branched into products promoted as ergonomic. OXO built its business on ergonomic household implements and has widened its product lines to include gardening tools. Peta (UK) Ltd specializes in tools for people with disabilities, but stresses its designs benefit gardeners with or without handicaps. And Radius™ Garden is one of several companies producing only hand tools.
A search through the catalogs of these and other makers produces a bewildering array of features promoted as ergonomic, and the challenge comes with deciding which ones deserve the description. No national standards have been set, and independent guidelines are hard to find. The Ergonomics Report™ ergonomicsreport.com, a publication for readers with a professional interest in ergonomics, asked an expert whose business depends on making the distinction how he does it.
Donald M. Swartz is principal of the online stores, Life with Ease® and Gardening with Ease®. His stock includes tools designed to reduce the risks of MSDs and make gardening easier for everyone.
“In order for us to add a new product it must first meet the criteria of seeming to accomplish the task of minimizing stress,” he explained. “Since I have a background in Engineering and Chiropractic it would be impossible for that to not influence my decision making. However, given that there is inadequate research and testing, primarily due to a lack of funding from government and industry, I also apply a good deal of common sense in determining which products I should check. Finally, I use each tool – I am 56 years old and an excellent example of someone beginning to experience pain and injury with previously non-injurious tasks.”
Gardeners who have decided “enough is enough” when it comes to the seasonal pain of tending plants appear to have two choices. One is to review guidelines published for general hand tools and apply it to gardening products. The other is to shop for a retailer who knows the market and has acquired the same kind of expertise.
Sources: Fiskar; Ames; Felco; OXO; Peta (UK) Ltd.; Radius™ Garden; The Ergonomics Report™