Richard L. Parish | 10/4/2004 4:24:00 AM
Price, performance and durability are important considerations in choosing garden tools and power equipment, but if a tool or machine is uncomfortable or awkward to use, you’ll regret buying it, according to LSU AgCenter engineer Dr. Richard Parish.
"The interaction between you and the tool or machine is called ergonomics," the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station engineer says.
The Ergonomics Society explains that ergonomics is using what we know about humans to design the objects, systems and environments people use. Ergonomic design considers options to be sure people's capabilities and limitations are taken into account.
More simply put, Parish says, a tool or machine should fit you and be natural to use. You shouldn’t have to adapt to the tool or machine or be uncomfortable using it.
Parish cites several examples of shortcomings of lawn and garden tools and equipment:
"These are all examples of ergonomic problems," Parish says. Some of them continue as long as you use the tool or machine. Others become less of a concern as you learn to accommodate them.
"Ideally, the operator should not have to learn to accommodate the machine," Parish says, explaining, "The machine should be designed to accommodate the operator."
The engineer also points out examples of good ergonomics:
Parish suggests a good way to evaluate the ergonomics of a tool or machine is to spend some time operating it. Even then, however, some ergonomic problems won’t show up immediately. For instance, you may not notice the string trimmer wrist-strain problem until you’ve used the tool for 15-30 minutes.
"It’s seldom possible to operate a new tool or machine for a significant length of time before purchasing it," Parish says. An alternative is to talk to other owners and discuss their experiences using the equipment.
"Even if you can’t operate the equipment prior to sale, at least handle it and try all the controls to be sure they’re comfortable for you," Parish says. "If they aren’t comfortable initially, they’ll probably feel worse after substantial use."
The engineer says ergonomics is a valid concern when purchasing a tool or piece of power equipment.
"Many manufacturers work hard to provide good ergonomics," Parish says. "Others do not. If you plan to use a tool or machine for hard work, you want it to be comfortable and efficient to use. Most of all, you want a tool that fits you, not a tool that you have to adapt to."
Parish also recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about ergonomic tools. In addition, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site