Tool manufacturers are making a sizable investment in ergonomics. For those who are unfamiliar, this is the study of work. More specifically, it can be defined as the science of designing the job to fit the worker rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. In the HVAC world, this means making tools as user-friendly to a technician’s body as possible.
The NEWS talked with Milwaukee Tool ergonomist Raffi Elchemmas to learn more about this topic.
The NEWS: Just to start off, please give me a little background and explain your role at Milwaukee Tool.
Elchemmas: My role is actually very focused on just one thing — I am our ergonomist. I focus on helping design ergonomic attributes into tools, identify them, and objectively test that those designs are effecting change for our users.
The NEWS: How does one get into that line of work?
Elchemmas: That is an interesting question. There are six tool ergonomists in the country, and I know them all by name. So there is not a ton of us around. I have been in the industry since I graduated from college. The alphabet soup behind my name is getting longer and longer.
The NEWS: How do you influence tools? Is it on the front end or back end of the process?
Elchemmas: It is really an understanding from the design phase all the way through the prototype of the tool. Some people will get the finished product in their hands for it to be evaluated. For us, that does not make much sense. By that time, it is too late to make changes to the tool. What we do here is from the design phase of the process — when that tool is just an idea on a piece of paper, we are designing out some ergonomic shortcomings. Tools are hand held, so they are going to be a 5- or 6-pound tool. There is going to be some level of holding that in your hand for some time. The goal is to create a balanced tool that will decrease muscle effort. We want to prove that objectively before the product gets too far along in the process.
The NEWS: What should HVAC contractors know from your studies that would be beneficial to them?
Elchemmas: We have gotten to a place where people think that pain or soreness at the end of the day is just part of the job. That is just wrong.
We have had years of people being in pain at the end of the day, and that is not what it should be. You should be able to put a hard day’s work in without the risk of long-term injury or pain. It should not be a part of anyone’s job.
I want the contractors to know that we have their back. We are doing this whether the industry tells us to do it or not. We are leading this space by choice. It is important.
The NEWS: Any tips that contractors or technicians should be thinking about in how they use tools?
Elchemmas: We have a list of recommended ways to use tools. They include:
- Keep your wrist straight or neutral to combat carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Use low-force trigger engagements so as not to trigger finer tendonitis;
- Use only the amount of force necessary for the task to prevent tendonitis;
- Use power tools when available, and select the correct handle orientation to prevent elbow epicondylitis;
- And finally, work near your elbow height to protect against rotator cuff tear/bursitis.
Publication date: 11/5/2018