Solution Summary: Ergonomic Tool Belts
An ergonomic tool belt is an engineering control that can help reduce awkward back postures by evenly distributing weight around the tool belt. Shifting of tools is eliminated and the belt can be worn comfortably without excessive tightening. Tool belts can help reduce the risk of falls by freeing workers' hands from carrying tools while climbing up ladders or elevated platforms.
Ergonomic tool belts are worn like traditional tool belts. However, tools are housed in modules allowing even distribution of tool weight around the waist (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Duckbill SPMM
Modules are designed for specific tools and are attached with Velcro® (Figure 2). Re-locating the modules requires pulling off the module and replacing it at the desired location.
Figure 2. Attaching modules to the ergonomic tool belts
There are three models of Duck Bill tool belts designed to accommodate the worker’s needs. The Single Platform: Many Modules (SPMM) is recommended for loads more than 12 lb. The Agility Platform is recommended for loads less than 12 lb (Figure 3). The MobilityMax platform allows tools to be accessed when the worker is wearing a fall protection harness. All Duckbills are made from a nylon microfiber (Nytek), leather, and Velcro®.
Figure 3. The Duck Bill Agility Platform
The Diamond Back Tool Belt offers a variety of belts including standard nylon or padded nylon with suspender attachments. Individual tool modules are available, along with multi-tool pouches that are designed to house tools for a specific trade (Figure 4).
Figure 4. The Diamond Back Aurora Pouch (designed for electricians)
On most tool belts, tools are placed in an unbalanced position, which can cause awkward back postures. Furthermore, to help balance the weight, tool belts are often overly tightened, impeding blood flow. Ergonomic tool belts allow the worker to evenly distribute tools on the belt, reducing the chances of developing MSDs from awkward postures of the back. Additionally, workers utilizing this belt will not have to carry any tools with their hands while climbing ladders or elevated platforms.
How Risks are Reduced:
Ergonomic tool belts reduce the likelihood of developing MSDs because they allow the worker to evenly distribute tools on the belt. Wearing a balanced tool belt reduces awkward back postures. Additionally, ergonomic tool belts do not need to be excessively tightened to resist tools from sliding on the tool belt, thus reducing the risk of circulatory problems.
Manufacturers report that ergonomic tool belts are effective at reducing MSDs. The manufacturer claims, “…when the weight of tools is improperly allocated around the waist and the allocation isn't maintained throughout the day, it causes the user to compensate in unnatural and unintended ways.” Using the ergonomic tool belts create, “…a more stable platform that ‘suspends’ and evenly distributes all the weight you carry is created – leading to a much more comfortable and productive work day.”
Effects on Productivity:
Ergonomic tool belts increase productivity on the worksite.
Modules for respirators, flashlights, eyewear, gloves, and other tools are available. Waist sizes range from 26-60 inches. It is important to take the time to secure tools so weight is evenly distributed around the waist.
Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC; and Kevin Wright, SPT – Eastern Washington University