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Does your lower back or hip hurt from wearing a tool belt? Don’t worry! In this article, I share some tips for making tool belts more friendly to the lower back and hips. But first, why do you need a tool belt?
Why Do You Need a Tool Belt?
A tool belt is a time saver. It allows you to place essential tools on your body so that you can access them easily and reduce downtime at work.
In fact, some contractors in electrical and construction trades make it mandatory to wear a tool belt at work to increase efficiency at work. Keeping important tools on the body helps reduce the time you would spend rummaging through the tool storage box or bag to search for the right tool.
Moreso, tool belts come in handy when working overhead. They eliminate the need to go down every time to get a tool. Furthermore, isn’t it more convenient to pull a tool from a pouch on the waist than to bend every time to pick a tool from a bag? Tool belts are just very convenient temporary tool storage options.
Unfortunately, it is not all roses with tool belts. These tool rigs are notorious for causing back aches, hip pain, and knee problems when misused. A good number of handymen who wear them at work for long hours develop lower back pain or hip problems at some point in their careers.
Some of them are haunted by severe back problems later in their retirement years only to realize that a tool belt could be the culprit when a physician asks them if they used to wear it at work. This is when it dawns on them that tool belts might not be very safe for carrying tools. And this begs the question, are tool belts worth it? If they are, what can you do to keep them from causing painful back and hip injuries?
In this article, I will share how to use a tool belt safely to prevent strain on the back and hips. But first, let’s demystify the idea that tool belts are inherently bad.
When is a Tool Belt Bad For Your Back?
Don’t get me wrong, a tool belt is not bad. It is a convenient on-body tool storage option that lets you keep important tools close by. It allows you to pick a tool and put it back into the belt pouch without even looking.
However, a tool belt can be bad for your back or hip if you misuse it either by overloading it, carrying it for many hours every day, or placing it in the wrong place.
For instance, the maximum weight limit a person should carry to avoid back injury is 51 lbs according to OSHA. However, this weight limit can be adjusted to account for how often you lift and the distance you move while lifting the load.
As you know, it is possible to exceed this weight limit on a tool belt unknowingly because tools are heavy and tool belts have many pouches that can trick you into wanting to fill each one with tools.
Also, the fact that some people will wear a tool belt with tons of tools all day long and walk around with it increases the risk of lower back problems and hip injuries.
How To Prevent Back Pain From Tool Belts
There are a few things you can do to reduce the strain from tool belts. This includes:
1 Avoid overloading the tool belt
Tool belts come with many pockets that may tempt you into wanting to fill them with tools. But you need to know that a tool belt is not a replacement for your tool box or bag. Rather, it is a complementary tool organizer that lets you put essential tools on the waist for easy access while working. It goes hand in hand with a tool bag or toolbox.
You should only use a tool belt to carry the tools you need to perform a specific task. This can save you several trips to and from the tool storage box. For instance, if you are a framer, you can carry in the tool belt a framing square, tape measure, sets of different sizes of nails, and a hammer.
Similarly, an electrician can put into a tool belt rig essential types of pliers for preparing wires such as wire stripper, wire crimper, side cutters, nail sets and screws, drill bits, tape measure, and of course a few other accessories, and a drill/driver.
Just make sure the tool belt is not too heavy. About 20-30lbs weight around the waist would be fine.
2. Balance the weight on the tool belt
You should be keen to distribute the weight of the tools when placing them inside a tool belt. Do not put more weight on one side as it would expose one side of the body to more stress. If a tool is too heavy, it does not belong to the tool belt. And if you happen to place it in the tool belt, it should be temporary to free up your hands for something else.
Tool belts with removable pouches are the best for distributing the weight evenly. You can move the pockets to different positions on the waist or remove them until you get a good fit.
3. Use tool belt suspenders
Tool belt suspenders are a lifesaver. They can prevent lower back pain and hip problems that result from carrying a heavy tool belt every day. The harness helps to distribute the weight of tools from the lower back and hip area to the upper back and shoulders.
The best tool belt suspenders must have sufficient padding to protect your shoulders. Moreover, suspenders that crisscross at the back are more effective at distributing the weight and don’t come off easily while working.
4. Invest in quality tool belts and suspenders
Don’t just wear a tool belt and suspenders because they do the job. Consider the quality of a tool belt to avoid back and hip injuries.
OSHA recommends tool belts and suspenders with good padding because they distribute the weight of tools on the waist and on the shoulders quite well. Padded tool belts are also very comfortable.
Similarly, a tool belt harness with padding on the shoulders, neck yoke, and back protects your shoulders from bruises when the straps move. They also disperse the weight quite effectively. You can wear them for long hours without feeling tired, so long as you don’t stuff a ton of tools.
5. Wear the tool belt correctly
There is no one correct way to wear a tool belt. Instead, how you wear a tool belt depends on the industry you are in. These are some of the best ways to wear tool belts in different trades.
|Type of trade||How to wear a tool belt||Reason|
|Framer||Wear a framing tool belt with pouches on the side.||Allows you to slip between wall studs and rafters.|
|Carpenter/finish carpenters||Wear a carpenter’s tool belt with pockets in the front. The pocket with nails and screws should be at the front like a kangaroo pocket.||Makes it easy to see and grab the right tool and nail sizes.|
|Electrician||Wear an electrician’s tool belt with pouches on the side. Keep the drill holster on the right if you are right-handed and hand tools on the left, and vice versa.||Allows you to draw tools easily and put them back.|
|Siding and trim technician||Keep the tool belt bags at the back.||Makes it easier to climb ladders and negotiate scaffoldings.|
|Interior trim contractor||Keep the tool belt bags in the front||Gives you better control over the tools so that you can prevent them from gouging the wall or damaging trim as you move.|
Irrespective of your trade, you should always make sure the belt sits on the waist to avoid putting so much stress on the hip. And when you have a tool belt harness on, you should not tighten the belt. This will allow the suspenders to do their work of distributing the weight to the upper body more effectively.
Also, if you are not sure how to configure the pouches on your tool belt, just keep light pouches on the front and heavy pouches on the sides. But if you will be bending a lot, you may want to shift the bags from the front to the back.
Well, those are some of the things you can do to prevent tool belt back pain and hip problems. What other strategy do you apply to prevent strain from tool belts? Please share it in the comment section.