Recently, we came across a new style of base block (used to build the bottom layer of a wall). These stones have cut-out handles that the vendor claims will “save time and money with improved jobsite efficiency”. We are not experienced landscapers, but we do happen to know a few. Although he hasn’t actually used these blocks yet, one of our landscaper friends pointed out some potential “pros” to having handles in blocks:
- The handles reduce the risk of finger pinches and injuries as the fingers are not wrapped around the bottom of the block. In addition, this grip allows the base material (which is often sand) to not be disturbed as the installer precisely places the block without re-gripping, and without his/her fingers touching the sand.
- The “cut-out” handles reduce the overall weight of the block.
In addition to the handles, some other features were designed with the worker in mind:
- These blocks are reported to be longer than “traditional” base blocks. This means that it takes fewer blocks and therefore less time to lay the base layer.
- The “curved” design allows the landscaper to create a circular radius without additional tools. Traditional square stones need to be cut to create curved walls, which is time consuming.
- The blocks have “notches” that align with the previous stone to make it easier for the worker to position them in a straight line, in an 8-foot radius, or a 4-foot radius. This saves time and minimizes re-positioning, as the installer can position stone correctly the first time.
- Some customers might say that these aren’t the prettiest stones in the yard. However, the base layer is typically buried underground, so esthetics are not important. Since the base layer is the most important layer (supports the rest of the wall), minimizing errors at this stage is critical to an efficient build.
So, why are handles better (from an ergonomics perspective)?
- Handles are made to optimise grip strength. A “power” grip (all four fingers and the thumb wrapped around the handle) is the strongest position for our hands, wrists and forearms.
- Handles often allow a more neutral wrist posture. When an object does not have handles, the wrists may be more extended or bent to hold the object from the bottom.
- Handles can allow an easier placement. The object can be placed precisely without risk of it moving as the hands are moved from underneath or re-positioned to the sides of the object to avoid pinching the fingers.
- Handles that are designed with ergonomics in mind can be designed for the specific use. For example, when possible, a “cut-out” handle should be at least 11.5 cm wide, 3.2 cm high, 1.0 cm thick. If the user is wearing gloves, add 2.5 cm to the opening size.
Of course, we realise that products such as bricks and stones also have to adhere to other regulations such as weight and strength requirements in order to build a strong wall that won’t fall down, and this can make these types of “ergonomic” features challenging to incorporate into the design. However, these stones seem to be heading in the right direction. Landscapers pick up thousands of stones every week, so building a wall can be very repetitive and awkward. Products designed with the workers in mind can make a big difference.
Let us know if you’ve used these stones in your business…we’d love to hear how it went! Have you come across any other “ergonomic” products that improved the efficiency of landscape and construction work? Let us know!
Want to learn more about ergo design? Sign up for our Ergo Design course on October 20, in Cambridge.
Thanks to Josie for this blog article!