Preventing Strains from Tool Belts

We all know how important tool belts are in making our job easier and finish work faster. They come in different styles and all of them can make any DIYer, carpenter, or professional contractor work efficiently with their tools.

However, there are a lot of cases wherein tool belts can put a serious strain on the hip and back when not used properly. According to OHSA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), tool belts can weigh upward of 50 pounds if fully loaded. This puts significant pressure on the lower back and hips. 

Tips and recommendations to prevent strains from wearing tool belts

1. Arrange your tools properly

Every person has their own way of customizing their tool belt setup. That’s because you can choose different ways on how to wear your tool belt and which pockets should a tool go. The most important thing here is to make sure that the weight on each side of the tool belt is evenly distributed.

tool belts

2. Remove tools that are no longer needed

Sometimes, we tend to treat tool belts like a toolbox. Meaning, we like to put so many tools in the tool belts even if they are not needed for the project. This can make the tool belt become too heavy on your hips or back and also makes you work slower because of the weight.

tool belts

3. Wear padded belts and suspenders when there’s too much weight

Often, professionals like construction workers can’t avoid putting too many tools on their tool belts because of the nature of their job. That’s why there are specific tool belts that are designed for them, and they usually come with padded belts or suspenders. These two items distribute weight evenly between the shoulders and waist to reduce contact stress.

4. Be cautious of your posture

It’s not just about how many tools you’re carrying on the tool belt but also avoiding uncomfortable or hunched positions when working. This happens sometimes when we are in a rush to finish the job. An example is when trying to pick up a tool or load without bending your knees and keeping your back straight. 

tool belts

5. Balance your tool belt

A tool belt that is heavier on one side than the other when worn all day can pull your back out of alignment. This forces the muscles on the unloaded side to work harder in order to compensate. Balance the tools and supplies around your tool belt. Remember to take off your tool belt during break time to give your body a rest.

tool belts

6. If you have to lift, lift safely

You know the drill, but here’s a reminder. Plan the lift and test the load. Get help. Use a buddy or material handling equipment. Keep the load close. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift. Lift with your legs, and keep your back straight. Lower the load the same way.

7. Minimize overhead work 

Overhead lifting and reaching causes the back to arch. Excessive arching places stress on the small joints of the spine and places additional strain on the neck and shoulders. If you have to work overhead, get as close to your work as possible by standing on a platform or ladder. Take frequent breaks by lowering your hands and periodically bending forward with your hands on your knees to stretch out your back.

8. Keep your wrists and arms in neutral

Working with your wrists bent either back or forward increases the chances that you’ll develop problems. Avoid working with your arms outstretched, if possible; this puts more strain on your body. If you develop pain, swelling, tingling, and signs of an overuse injury, take time to rest. Trying to work through the pain will only make it worse. 

9. Use good techniques when shovelling 

Keep your feet wide apart with your front foot close to the shovel. Put the bottom hand low toward the blade. Shift weight to the rear foot. Keep the load close to your body. Turn your feet in the direction of the throw of your load. Try changing your grip or the direction of throw periodically, to avoid continually loading the same soft tissues.

10. Identify difficult jobs

Because of the variety of tasks in the construction industry, it is important to identify tasks that require one or more of the above risk factors, this is to reduce the risks. The following tasks are some that have identified as high-risk factors:

Framing

  • Working at ground level (nail gun, saw, etc.)
  • Lifting building materials from ground level.
  • Lifting and carrying plywood flooring.
  • Lifting assembled walls.
  • Moving materials to different floors.

Drywall

  • Lifting sheets of drywall from at or near ground level.
  • Prepare work on drywall sheets (cutting/sanding) at or near ground level.
  • Installation of drywall sheets near ground level.
  • Overhead installation (either ceiling or high walls)

Masonry

  • Distribution of block/brick throughout work site from delivered piles (using a wheelbarrow)
  • Re-distribution of block and brick from temporary piles (by hand or bucket).
  • Laying the block foundation.
  • Laying brick near or below ground level (on ground and scaffolding).
  • Lifting heavy bags up to the mixer, and shoveling.
tool belts
tool belts

Utilize Efficiency and Safety with Tool Belts

When wearing tool belts, we shouldn’t just be thinking about efficiency but also safety too. It could be that your current setup makes your work faster but overtime, it might give you some serious back or hip injury.  Revisit your tool setup, choose the right type of tool belt for you, and get a customized tool belt if you feel like this can help you better.

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