From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Study: Be Wary of Gardening Tools Labeled ‘Ergonomic’

A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel addressed the spring gardening ‘boomlet,’ and warned gardeners to be careful out there, because “all that digging can be hard on the knees, hands, wrists and shoulders.”

That’s good advice. But today’s gardeners can find comfort in all the ‘ergonomic’ gardening tools for sale, right?

The article also cited a study where Julie Jepsen Thomas, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the Medical University of Ohio in Toledo, and her students have found that ergonomic gardening tools may not be so gardener-friendly after all.

“In 2004, Thomas and a student, Alysun Brown Tebben, reported research results in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Their study compared a regular trowel with one billed as ergonomic. The ergonomic trowel was twice as heavy (not a good start) but had a longer handle (which is usually a plus). The researchers invited 64 women between the ages of 20 and 50 to try the trowels by scooping dirt from a plastic tub into an 8-inch flower pot while wearing special instruments to measure their wrist movements. Thomas and Tebben found no statistically significant difference between the two trowels in their effect on wrist movements or in ratings of ease and comfort and overall preference.” The moral of the story, according to the article, don’t put much faith in the ergonomic label.

The Scoop
There are in fact many ergonomically designed products available today for consumers. However, gardeners should be aware – there are no regulations governing use of the term “ergonomically designed” in the consumer market.

Sources: Harvard College; Orlando Sentinel