Repetitive Handling Made Easy
Using heavy tools on a daily basis will eventually impact on a worker’s health. Long time repeated tool handling will take its toll on a tool operator’s muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. It doesn’t matter how fit your operators are; the same repeated application of small amounts of force is enough to cause long term damage.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix. You don’t have to provide lighter tools for your operators or limit the hours they spend working. You just have to take the load off their shoulders. A simple tool balancer, positioned above your operator’s workstation, will carry the weight of your tool so your operator doesn’t have to. Here’s a guide to picking the right tool balancer to improve your operator’s ergonomics.
Improving Your Operator’s Ergonomics
One of ergonomics’ basic practices is to “fit the job to the person,” or provide workplace accommodations which allow workers to perform their functions without risk of injury. Among the most common workplace injuries are musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive motion. Ergonomics are of particular concern for operators working in manufacturing assembly, as they are often tasked with performing the same repetitive actions. For instance, an operator may tighten the same fastener hundreds of times on a single day and it will eventually take its toll. Fortunately, these injuries can be prevented with the addition of a quality tool balancer.
Tool Balancers Reduce Injuries and Improve Performance
Tool balancers reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in tool operators. This simple mechanism is suspended above your operator’s workstation and attached to their tool via a retractable cable. The cable holds the weight of the tool, meaning your operator only has to direct its movement, not support its mass.
Not only does a tool balancer reduce the risk of injury, but it also reduces fatigue and increases productivity. Without needing to support the weight of their tool for hours on end, operators are less likely to succumb to muscular fatigue, leading to improved worker satisfaction and increased efficiency all around.
Types of Tool Balancers
Not every tool is the same, so to effectively improve ergonomics with each of your different tools, you’ll need different tool balancers. Here’s a rundown of the common types of tool balancers available:
Retractor Tool Balancers
Retractable Spring tool balancers are exactly what they sound like. At rest, your tool hangs slightly below the body of the balancer. When the operator wants to use it, they pull down to unwind the cable inside and bring the tool to bear. The cable is under continuous pressure from an internal spring, so when the operator lets go, the tool will return automatically to its rest position.
These tool balancers are the most basic option with capacities ranging from 0.4 kg up to 200 kg and are the most common type of balancer used in manufacturing settings. While less expensive than more specialty Tool balancers, also known as spring balancers exist to hold and counterbalance tools in a pre-set position making them essentially weightless during use. The tool balancer consists of a reel containing an extendable support cable that is suspended from an overhead line or connected to a fitting in the workplace. The tool is then connected to the tool balancer by a suspension hook and a tensioning spring inside the balancer is fine-adjusted to the weight of the tool using a tensioning knob. Tool balancers are available with different load capacities and cable travel lengths.
The major benefits are that they provide weightless operation of tools, increase operator comfort and decrease fatigue, thereby increasing productivity allowing the use of the tool over long periods of time and prevent tools from being dropped and damaged.
Tool spring balancers are ideal for use in industrial settings where heavy tools are commonly utilised in the same position in the assembly line or bench tasks.
Possible applications of tool spring balancers include pneumatic tools, portable power tools and hydraulic tools, Resistance spot welding machines, X-Ray apparatus, Measuring machines, Compressed air equipment, XPower tools, Welding machines, Welding templates, Paint spraying apparatus and Cages. Whatever the required use, DLH Online has the right fit for you.
Hose Reel Tool Balancers
Hose reel tool balancers in capacities from 0.4 kg to 5 kg are the refined version of the simple retractor balancer. They hold the same weight and operate on the same principle, using an internal spring. Where they improve on the basic retractor is the incorporation of a pneumatic hose as a support cable.
As pneumatic hoses are essential components of all air tools, this balancer does two jobs at once: protecting your operator from repetitive motion injuries and keeping their workstation clear of a trailing, pressurized hose. This helps reduce the likelihood of trips and falls, as well as punctured air hoses and their associated hazards.
Zero Gravity Tool Balancers
Zero gravity tool/load balancers are the jewel of the tool balancer family. They are able to support far more weight than retractor or hose reel balancers, up to 600 kgs. If you need to suspend a heavy-duty tool—and the heavier your tool is, the more you’ll want to suspend it—then a zero gravity balancer is the smart choice.
Air Powered Zero gravity balancers can support this extra weight because they do not rely on an internal spring. This also means they apply no upward pressure on the tool in your operator’s hand. When released, the tool remains in the same position. So, these balancers are even gentler on your operators than retractor balancers.
When using a tool with a zero-gravity balancer, the only thing your operator has to lift is their own arm. While these balancers are more expensive than other versions, they are indispensable for heavy tools, and the price can be justified by the added protection they offer your workers. In addition, controls can be added to turn the balancer into a zero-gravity hoist which allows different weights of load can be lifted and manipulated with little operator effort.