From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Long Handles and Extenders

Dan MacLeod, CPE, MA, MPH

KnifeExtender1 KnifeExtender2
Short handle:  long reach Long handle: no reach

Principles affected

Related pages



The value of a long-handled tool has been long appreciated. But even today new applications are found.

Tool extenders have also been used for ages, usually very simple attachments to short handles, such as a broom stick tied to a paint brush. What is new are more sophisticated variants, both homemade and commercially available

Ideas and Options

Long handles

HandleShort HandleLongShort2
Short- handled shovel: deep bend Long handled-shovel: no bend

Countless examples of short and long-handled versions of tools are available.  Note that the objective of the long handles is to reduce bending and reaching.  If there is no bending or reaching, there may be no need for a longer handle. Indeed, there can be problems with long handles depending upon the task, such as clearance or increased exertion (for the latter, see “mechanicaldisadvantage” in Levers).

M BroomDustpan Long
Needless bending Long-handled broom and dustpan

One of the most easily fixed tools that is found in every workplace is the dustpan. Long-handled dustpans are now readily available. (One wonders why long-handled brooms are universal, but not so with the dustpan.)


PaintExtender1 short PaintExtender1 long
Paint brush extender: Removable, depending on the need

An extender is removable long handle, but the term is also often used when a long handle is used in an unconventional situation.

Homemade extender for staple gun

This example shows an extender for a staple gun for use on a low level. The device simply extends the trigger up to a better height. Previously, employees needed to squat and do a “duck walk” to staple.

Also note the creative use of conveyor ball rollers under the gun to elevate it to exactly the height and to roll where needed. This feature eliminates the need to (1) use unnecessary exertion to hold the gun in the air and (2) take unnecessary time to position it correctly.

Commercial fastening tool extender

This commercially available extender is designed for fastening roofing panels, saving time as well and backs and knees.


Extension shaft for socket wrench

Another example of a commonly used extender is a long shaft for a socket wrench, helpful for extending reach as well as for fitting into small spaces. As with the above examples, the points of this example are:

  • Be aware of the adaptation for this particular tool
  • Think of how this adaptation might help you develop something similar for a different tool