By Stephani L. Miller. Ergonomics in the hand and power tool industry is the applied science of designing and adapting tools to accommodate the physical needs or capabilities of the user. This scientific field also seeks to reduce and prevent health problems associated with or caused by a specific type of work or a specific type of tool. Ergonomically designed tools are intended to reduce physical stress and fatigue to increase worker performance.

Features such as vibration-reducing and non-slip grips, lighter-weight housings, extra handles, and balancing tools for heavier machines all help to improve user comfort and efficiency. Ergonomics can also include the development of a completely new tool or solution for accomplishing a specific task. But at what point should a tool be called ergonomic?

Currently, there is no industry standard that defines what makes a tool ergonomic in design and application. However, one tool manufacturer and its partners are attempting to create measurable ergonomic tool standards. Stanley, along with ergonomics consulting firm BCAM International and the Ergonomic Technology Center at the University of Connecticut Medical Center, is working toward scientifically measurable industry standards of hand and power tool ergonomics.

UConn's ErgoCenter, which has been appointed to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's expert panel on ergonomics, has developed a series of tests that study the ergonomic benefits of certain tool designs. The results of all these tests will be a Hand Tool Ergonomic Data Sheet defining the ergonomic strengths and weaknesses of a particular tool.

Stanley also tests its own tools for ergonomic solutions using BCAM International's proprietary software and testing methodologies and its own in-house ergonomics lab.

The testing and standards development are not yet complete, but when they are, they will provide a set of guidelines for the tool and building industries to refer to when considering the ergonomic design of hand and power tools.

Milwaukee Electric Tool. The 14.4-volt cordless impact wrench is lightweight but delivers up to 117 foot pounds of torque and is equipped with a heavy-duty, die-cast aluminum gear housing. Three available models measures 71/2 inches long and can produce up to 2,500 impacts per minute. The company offers a 1/4-inch hex drive, a 3/8-inch square drive, and a 1/2-inch square drive. (800) 414-6527. Miller Electric Manufacturing. The Spectrum 625 portable plasma air cutter has a cut rated at 1/2 inch on mild steel. Weighing 57 pounds, the tool can cut steel up to 5/8 inch thick. The cutter's Wind Tunnel Technology prevents dust and metal particles from damaging the tool's interior. The electronic pilot arc controller extends tip life by boosting pilot current only when needed for a strong arc transfer, says the manufacturer. (800) 426-4553.

Metabo Corp. The BE622SR+L compact, lightweight drill features a triple reduction gear train that allows up to 310 inch/pounds of torque. A reversing feature makes the drill usable by right- and left-handed operators, and an extra-long side handle offers increased operator control. Users can match the drill's speed to the load value. (800) 638-2264.

Courtesy Hitachi
Hitachi. The VB16Y rebar cutter/bender allows bending and cutting of rebar with the same tool. Using 530 watts of power, the tool's microprocessor bends up to No.5 Grade 60 rebar at a maximum angle of 180 degrees, according to the company. Users have manual control over the velocity and angle at which rebar is bent. (800) 829-4752.
Courtesy DeWalt
DeWalt. The 13/4 horsepower, 11-amp router (DW616K) and the 21/4 horsepower, 12-amp router (DW618K) with soft start and electronic variable speed both feature the company's micro-fine depth adjustment ring with 1/64-inch increments for small adjustments. Interchangeable router bases include a fixed base, a plunge base, and a D-handle base. (800) 4-DEWALT.
Courtesy Hilti
Hilti. The TE 6 Rotary Hammer Drill features a quick-release chuck to allow for fast changes between 1/2-inch keyed and keyless chucks. The tool can drill at full speed with hammering at only 30% of full impact energy, allowing precision specialty drilling on brittle and delicate materials, the maker says. It switches from drilling to chiseling mode instantly for light clean-up work on concrete and masonry. (800) 879-6000.
Courtesy Campbell Hausfeld
Campbell Hausfeld. Nine pneumatic tools make up the AT Professional Series with Santoprene elastomer grips. The grips are non-slip in wet environments and resist sweat, water, oil, and chemicals. The first tools in the series include two 1/2-inch impact wrenches, a 6-inch dual action sander, a 3/8-inch ratchet, a 25/8-inch air hammer, a full-sized die grinder, a cut-off tool (shown here), a 3/8-inch rev drill, and a 3/8-inch keyless drill. (888) 247-6937.
Courtesy Bosch
Bosch. The Brute-Tough drill/driver is designed with a 1/2-inch chuck for continuous heavy use in high-torque drilling applications, says the manufacturer. With speeds up to 1,500 rpm on the 14.4-volt version and up to 1,300 rpm on the 18-volt version, the drill/drivers deliver 475+ inch/pounds of torque. The 360-degree, ergonomically designed assist handle features extra bit storage. (877) 267-2499.
Courtesy Stanley-Bostitch
Stanley-Bostitch. A magnesium housing and a design using 30 fewer parts yield a new line of lightweight magnesium frame brad nailers and narrow crown finish staple nailers. The pneumatic BT200K-2, BT125K-2, and the SX150-K1 trim and finish tools feature oil-free engines with an ultra-quiet rear exhaust and an open-nose design to allow for quick jam clearing. (800) 782-6539.
Courtesy Makita USA
Makita USA. MFORCE Series cordless drills are designed with features such as the company's Shift Lock Drive System, a two-piece D-31 motor, and two high-capacity 2.6Ah nickel-metal hydride batteries. The shift system offers one-touch shifting from drill to driver mode. When shifted to drill mode, the system locks out the clutch to increase drilling power, the company says. (800) 462-5482.
Courtesy HOLZ-HER Tools
HOLZ-HER Tools. The Protool SBP 285 portable band saw's five carbide shoes assure the consistent tracking of the band saw blades while adjusting quickly and precisely for the various blade widths. The 111/2-inch band saw uses a 1600W/220V motor and comes with two 6-mm and one 19-mm band saw blades. (Timberwolf Tools is now the exclusive North American distributor of HOLZ-HER Tools, made in Germany.) (800) 869-4169.
Courtesy Paslode
Paslode. The TrimMaster 18 Cordless Finish Nailer features a depth-of-drive adjustment to provide control of nail setting depth. The nailer's long, narrow nose allows fastener placement in tight spots, and two types of no-mar tips minimize the chance of damaging wood trims, says the manufacturer. The tool's quick-clear nose will clear nail jams without the use of additional tools. (800) 682-3428.
Courtesy PAM Fastening Technology
PAM Fastening Technology. The P13KUE autofeed screw gun system can be used as a standard shorter-length tool to screw 1- to 3-inch screws and can be reconfigured and fitted with a long extension. With the extension attachment, the tool measures 383/4 inches long and will handle screws in #6 and #12 diameters. Built with a Milwaukee 2500 rpm screw gun, the tool weighs 7 pounds and comes with two spare 140 mm drive bits. (704) 394-3141.
Courtesy Danair
Danair. The Extended Long Rifle Magnetic Guide on the RN-16M-60 Long Rifle Pro Palm Nailer simplifies toenailing and installing joist hangers, according to the manufacturer. The pneumatic nailer's magnetic guide accepts 6d through 60d nails. The nailer allows the user to reach and nail in places a standard hammer cannot be effectively swung. (800) 232-6247.