Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kitchen Ergonomics - Part Two

When shopping for kitchen tools, I am sure that you have seen different instruments that have fat/chubby handles.

For those of you who are wondering why large barreled instruments are ergonomic, this is the post for you.

As I discussed the different types of gripping in my previous post, you will recall that using a pinch grip is not exactly the greatest grip to use. (Click here to view my post on Kitchen Ergonomics - Part One.)

In this installment, we will be looking at grip forces. I am generally referring to the pressure on the hands and arms by tools that could result in the compression of tissues. More specifically, a pinch grip involves holding an object between the thumb and one or more fingers. This type of grip exerts a force that cannot be held for very long. That being said, it does not necessarily mean that using a pinch grip is a bad thing to do. It only becomes a problem when the pinch grip is used either repetitively or for prolonged periods of time.

Tools and equipment used in the food industry can contribute to ergonomic hazards. One of the ways an ergonomic hazard is observed is through using tools which require high pinch grip forces. A way to reduce these forces is by using bigger/larger handled tools.

Here's an everyday example; a pen (for writing down all of your recipes). As you can see, when using the pen, a pinch grip force is used. When employing a pinch grip, the body is forced to use tiny muscle groups that fatigue easily. This forces the body to use other muscle groups to compensate. Can you remember a time where you had to write out a large amount of information and by the time you were finished, your arm (and maybe even your shoulder) hurt?
Increasing the size of the pen's barrel reduces the pinch grip, in turn, allowing your hand and arm to use larger muscle groups. As you can see, this is done in a number of ways.

Adding a larger grip to the pen may be sufficient.

Using a pen with a larger barrel also works.

When looking for tools, try to stay away from ones that have pre-marked grooves for fingers. These grooves often don't often match up with everyone's specific dimensions and lead can to an uncomfortable fit.

Remember, the goal in ergonomics is for the tool to fit the user and not the other way around.
Kitchen Tool Examples: Peelers
Vegetable/fruit peelers are fairly common in the kitchen. As you can see in this example, holding this type of peeler could create a pinch grip.

Clamping is also considered to be a type of pinch grip.

A way to reduce the pinch grip is to increase the size of the barrel of the tool, as seen in the example below:
(It's actually a zester, but you get the point.)

In this next example, you move from using a pinch grip to a power grip (a better way to grip, in 
ergonomic terms):

Another way to look at the grip hazard is by eliminating it altogether. Using a palm-style peeler eliminates the gripping.

The way this peeler is designed allows the user to maintain neutral hand positioning without gripping. (N
eutral hand positioning is when the hand is in line with the wrist and forearm.)

In the world of food ergonomics, fat equals more than just flavour. (At least, it does when you're talking about tools!)


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