Do door handles cause carpal tunnel?

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Door handles – a new carpal tunnel hazard?

When it comes to ergonomics everything matters, including door handles.  For years I have been preaching to anyone that will listen that we need to really evaluate our software programs to see the number of keystrokes that programs require.  Less keystrokes the better.  The same goes for door handles, let’s take a look.

Seriously – door handles

Door handles, seriously!, you say.  Most risk managers wouldn’t think that door handles present a major ergonomic hurdle to address in our workplaces, but as you know, not all workplaces are built the same.  I recently went to visit a client’s office and after being lead thru doorway after doorway I finally arrived at their desk.  During our conversation they asked me if I noticed how many doors I had to  go thru to get to their office.  Not having paid attention, I thought my attention to detail was being tested.  Tracing my steps – more than 4 I shouted.

They were getting lots of complaints about wrist pain from having to open so many doors.  Just imagine opening 4 doors 20 times a day as you have to go to meetings, lunch, the bathroom and the like.  The problem, people with previous carpal tunnel or serious wrist issues have to grab the handles and twist 80 times a day.  That’s a lot.

We looked for solutions quickly.  The easy one – replace all the handles with push bars – single action.  Too expensive!  How about trying this grip or that grip?  Then it finally hit us, pull the handle up.

Different forces for pulling up or pulling down

Pulling the handle up versus down has tremendous benefits.  First, you don’t need to engage the thumb.  Second, the force for the up motion is 1/3 that of the down motion on the handle.  Third, you get the power of the bicep pulling the door towards you versus the shoulder or tricep.

Not all handles are created equally

Okay, some handles don’t go up, I get it.  The point of this article is to get you thinking about how many items around the workplace may be contributing to injuries and what you can do about them.  Handle design, software keystrokes required, on and on.  Just start thinking outside the cubicle to get maximum results.

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