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What are ergonomic shovels?

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'What's Ergonomics, Daddy?' 'It's making children tall enough so that Daddies don't have to bend so much.' If you have read our section on ergonomically-designed snow shovels, you will be aware of just how much they can vary.

The most crucial aspect of ergonomics is to fit the demands of a job to you, the user.

The pain from shovelling usually strikes the low back region the most The demands of a job such as shovelling will involve continual bending and heavy lifting.

The most likely place for pain or injury will be the lower back.

A sore back from using the wrong sized shovel So not only should an ergonomic shovel be suited to you but also to the task for which it is designed.

A quality ergonomic shovel will place central importance on the shaft, which should eliminate the need to bend too far. Look for a shovel with one of the following features:

  • An extending/adjustable shaft
  • An angle (or bend) along the length
  • A second handle grip midway along the shaft

An extending/adjustable shaft

Shafts usually extend to 900 mm (36 inches) This is not only ideal for those who are tall or short but will also enable all users to customise the shovel to their height and the task.

A long enough shaft will prevent you from having to repeatedly bend when digging into snow, for example, thus reducing the strain placed on the lower back.

The shaft of a telescopic shovel is constructed from parts which slide into each other to permit lengthening and shortening.

An angle (or bend) in the shaft

The angle or bend in the shaft of an ergonomically designed shovel The shafts of some shovels are angular or have a bend two thirds of the way along their length.

This will reduce debilitating forces to the spine when a loaded shovel is lifted off the ground as the user tends to remain in a more upright position.

Bent vs. straight handle

Imagine how hard it would be to dig using a shovel with a bend in its shaft. If the ergonomic ‘bent’ shaft has so many more advantages over its ‘straight’ counterpart, why has it not rendered the traditional shaft obsolete?

This is because we’re not all built the same. While one person may find lifting with the ‘bent’ shovel easier, another may find the opposite.

In addition, most ergonomic shovels have been designed for the lifting and removal of snow.

Precise digging, for instance, requires a shovel with a straight shaft.

A second handle grip

An ergonomic shovel designed with two handles for ease of use To counteract any difficulty in lifting a shovel with a bent shaft, some ergonomic shovels have an additional handle on the shaft, allowing for a second point of contact.

This type of shovel allows any weight to be balanced equally in front of your body with both hands, making a loaded shovel easier to lift, improving your posture and reducing back pain and potential injury.

Other features on ergonomic shovels include:

An ergonomic handle will provide the best grip and comfort, reducing stress on the hands and wrists.

Cushioned, angled and roomy handle grips

These will provide the best grip and comfort, reducing stress on the hands and wrists.

Look for finger indentures for additional comfort.

All these added features help moderate fatigue on the hands and wrists.

Look for material that is lightweight

Suitable material

For a person with a smaller frame or with back and joint problems, the material used to construct the shovel should be light enough to lift without straining.

Consider using plastic if you have a small, light frame A plastic blade is light enough to lift while being being able to withstand heavy loads.

Although prone to wear and tear, the benefits of using lightweight plastic far outweigh the durability of steel, which can be heavy and tiring to use.

Reduce hand and wrist pain when shovelling with a light shovel A quality wooden shaft or a fibreglass shaft rather than heavy steel is another factor to consider.

Lightweight and able to absorb shock and vibration, both are ideal materials to reduce stress and fatigue on the body.

Whatever your needs, it is worth searching for the right shovel.

If your budget allows for the expense of buying different shovels to suit different tasks then make sure you shop wisely.

If, however, one multi-purpose shovel will have to suffice then make sure that you are comfortable using it.