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Are shovels designed "ergonomically"?

Shovels and spades are not designed from the ergonomic drawing board. They are basic tools that have been developed over centuries. Thousands of years of experience with such common tools has led to a wide variety of shovels and shovels being developed to meet numerous needs.

In general, A shovel is a tool used for digging and moving loose granular material such as dirt, gravel, grain or snow from one place to another.A shovel is a tool used for digging straight edge holes or grooves, slicing and lifting sod, and trimming flower beds or lawns.In North America, however, the word shovel is often used for both shovel and spade. Ergonomic considerations are essential when choosing the right shovel for the task.

What to consider when choosing a shovel or spade?

The most important features when choosing a shovel include:

The weight,Handle type,Length, and Blade size and shape.Why does the weight of the shovel matter?The muscle strength required for shoveling depends on:

The total weight of the shovel,The weight it carries,How far the weight is from the body of the scooper Place your hand on the handle.Reduce the weight of the shovel, which is ineffective weight, and improve the efficiency of the shovel.

Shovels typically weigh between 1.5 and 3 kilograms (3.3 pounds to 6.6 pounds). The weight depends in part on the type and weight of materials (e.g., steel, aluminum, plastic) suitable for the intended use. For example, a light shovel (e.g., 1.5 kg (3 lb)) may be suitable for light snow, but a heavier, sturdier shovel (e.g., 3 kg (6.5 lb)) may be needed for rock or coal.

Why is the type and length of the shaft important?

There are two conflicting opinions regarding the overall length of a shovel. Longer shafts (up to chest height) ease the strain on back muscles by reducing the amount of bending required. Shorter lengths result in better stability when transferring the load. These two factors have to be carefully balanced when deciding which shovel to choose for the task.

In general, when the blade is placed on the ground, the total length (blade plus shaft and handle) should be approximately to elbow height (when arms are at your side). Spades used for digging holes or cutting turf are usually longer than shovels.

For snow shovelling in particular, shovel shafts are now available with bends in the shaft or a second handle (usually mid-shaft) which are intended to decrease the amount of forward back-bending required. There are no studies that specifically recommend the use of bent-shafted shovels or mid-shaft handles, although some users do indicate they feel these shovels reduce back discomfort. Some of these shovels are also designed to push snow versus lift it. Take the time to determine what motions you need to perform and what type of shovel and design will be best for you.

Ultimately, the shovel shaft should be constructed to be strong and light. Fiberglass shafts and/or handles are often lighter and stronger than traditional wood shafts.

For summer shovelling, a non-slip handle can lower the force you need to hold the tool, especially in hot conditions where your sweat may interfere with your grip.

Why is the size and shape of the blade important?

Selection of blade size and shape should depend on the hardness, density (or weight), and the stability of the materials being shovelled. The less dense the material, the larger the blade size.

  • Use triangular or round blades with long handles for sand and dry earth.

  • Use square blades with short handles for coarse-grained materials such as gravel, coal, or ore.

  • Use a smaller blade (shovel heads) to minimize the weight of material when lifting.

  • Use a blade that has rolled step on the top (it can be triangular, round, or straight at the bottom) for digging in hard earth. These shovels/spades allow the users to apply foot pressure to push the blade into the earth. This action substantially reduces strain on upper body and lower back.

What factors should I consider while designing shovelling tasks?

The major components of shovelling and digging tasks are:

  • shovelling rates,

  • shovel loads,

  • throw height, and

  • throw distance.

What is the recommended rate for shovelling?

The most efficient shovelling rate is estimated at about 18-21 scoops per minute. However, fatigue builds up over a short time at this rate. Therefore, the recommended rate for continuous shovelling tasks is usually considered to be around 15 scoops per minute. Tasks involving continuous shovelling at this rate should not be carried on longer than fifteen minutes at a time. The shovelling rate per minute will also depend on how easily the shovel can be inserted into the material being moved (e.g., grain, snow, gravel, compacted earth), the stability of the material being moved, and the weight of the material.

The length of the rest break depends on many factors. Since most shovelling is done outdoors, consideration for the prevailing conditions is very important. In the more extreme conditions such as very hot and humid, or very cold and windy, 15 minutes of shovelling should be followed by 15 minutes of rest.

What is the recommended weight of the load to be lifted?

The load lifted should be adjusted according to the shovelling rate. For a high rate of shovelling (about 15 scoops per minute) the total weight (weight of a shovel plus a shovel load) should not exceed 5 to 7 kg (about 10 to 15 lb). For higher weights, a lower rate of scoops per minute is suggested (e.g., 8 kg for 6 to 8 scoops per minute). In addition, the need for precise placement of the load decreases the amount to be lifted because it takes more time and effort to aim the load at a selected location.

What is the recommended throw height and distance?

Throw height should not exceed 1.3 meters (approximately 4 feet). The optimal throw distance is slightly over l metre (about 3 feet). The load should be reduced if the task requires a longer throw.

What is the recommended workload for continuous shovelling?

There are also guidelines for maximum workloads for continuous shovelling. This table is an example of such suggested by the Kodak Company.

Maximum Amount of Material
Transported, Continuous Work

Weight Per Minute

Total Weight Per 15 Minutes










Lifts up to 100 cm (40 in.) above the ground - compact, non-critical load placement.





Lift routinely above 100 cm (40 in.) above the ground





Very precise load placement or shifting load (reduces possible lifting frequency and weight per lift).

What should you do before shovelling?

Shovelling is strenuous work and hard on both the heart and the back. For older people or persons with a history of back or heart problems it might be better to avoid this job altogether. Shovelling is especially difficult under extreme weather conditions (cold winter, hot summer). Even for the physically fit, warm-up exercises before starting shovelling is highly recommended. Flexing and stretching exercises warm and loosen the muscles and prepare them for the job ahead.

What are some other basic safety tips to know when shovelling?

  • Always contact your local utility providers before digging to determine the location of any cables, power lines, gas pipelines, water pipes, etc. that may be below ground. In some jurisdictions, it may be against the law to dig without locating certain services. In addition, the homeowner or contractor could be liable for any damages caused.

  • Wear the proper protective clothing; safety footwear, gloves, long pants if necessary

  • Allow for safe distance between people if you are working with other people.

What are guidelines for shovelling?

GK(16a)Keep feet wide apart. Place front foot close to shovel.

GK(16b)Put weight on front foot. Use leg to push shovel.

GK(16c)Shift weight to rear foot. Keep load close to body.

GK(16d)Turn feet in direction of throw.

What are guidelines for digging?

GK(17a)Push spade down using leg muscle.

GK(17b)Slide load close to body. Ensure load is loose from ground before lifting.

Q:What are the different types of shovels?

A:There are many different types of shovels, each designed for specific tasks and environments. Here are some of the most common types:

Spade Shovel: A flat, rectangular blade with a straight or slightly curved edge, used for digging and cutting through soil and roots.

Round-Point Shovel: A pointed blade with a curved or straight edge, used for digging in softer soil or breaking up hard ground.

Square-Point Shovel: A flat, square blade with a straight edge, used for scooping and moving loose materials like sand, gravel, or snow.

Garden Shovel: A smaller version of a spade or round-point shovel, with a shorter handle and narrower blade, used for gardening tasks like planting, weeding, and edging.

Trenching Shovel: A long, narrow blade with a curved edge, used for digging trenches and ditches.

Drain Spade: A shovel with a narrow, pointed blade, used for digging trenches for drainage systems.

Scoop Shovel: A wide, deep blade with a curved or flat edge, used for scooping and moving loose materials like soil, sand, or gravel.

Snow Shovel: A shovel with a wide, deep blade and a curved handle, used for removing snow from driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces.

Post Hole Digger: A tool with two narrow blades used for digging deep, narrow holes for fence posts, signposts, or other similar structures.

Edging Shovel: A shovel with a flat, straight blade and a sharp edge, used for creating and maintaining clean edges along gardens, lawns, and other landscaping features.

There are many other types of shovels available, each with its own unique design and features to meet specific needs and tasks.

Q:What is the best shovel for digging up shrubs?

A:The best shovel for digging up shrubs depends on the size and type of the shrub, as well as the soil conditions. Here are a few options:

Spade Shovel: A spade shovel with a flat, rectangular blade and a straight or slightly curved edge is a good choice for digging up small to medium-sized shrubs, particularly those with shallow root systems. This type of shovel can cut through roots and soil with ease and is also useful for removing larger weeds.

Drain Spade: A drain spade with a narrow, pointed blade is a good choice for digging up shrubs with deeper root systems. The narrow blade allows for greater precision and control, making it easier to dig around the root ball without damaging the surrounding soil.

Garden Spade: A garden spade with a shorter handle and a narrower blade is a good choice for digging up smaller shrubs, particularly those in tight spaces or hard-to-reach areas. This type of shovel is also useful for other gardening tasks like planting and edging.

Shovel with serrated edge: A shovel with a serrated edge can be helpful for cutting through tough roots that may be difficult to remove with a regular shovel.

When digging up shrubs, it's important to use a sharp shovel and take care not to damage the root ball or surrounding plants. In addition, it's a good idea to water the area well the day before to help loosen the soil and make digging easier.

Q:What are the three main shovels?

A:The three main types of shovels are:

Spade Shovel: A spade shovel has a flat, rectangular blade with a straight or slightly curved edge. It's often used for digging and cutting through soil and roots.

Round-Point Shovel: A round-point shovel has a pointed blade with a curved or straight edge. It's often used for digging in softer soil or breaking up hard ground.

Square-Point Shovel: A square-point shovel has a flat, square blade with a straight edge. It's often used for scooping and moving loose materials like sand, gravel, or snow.

These three types of shovels are the most common and versatile shovels, and they can be used for a wide variety of tasks. However, there are many other types of shovels available for more specialized tasks and environments.

Q:What are shovels used for?

A:Shovels are a versatile tool used for a variety of purposes, including:

Digging: Shovels are commonly used for digging holes for planting, burying or uncovering objects, or creating trenches.

Moving and transporting materials: Shovels are used for moving and transporting materials like dirt, gravel, sand, or snow.

Breaking up hard ground: Shovels are often used to break up hard or compact soil, ice, or other materials.

Removing weeds and debris: Shovels are used for removing weeds, grass, and other unwanted vegetation from gardens and lawns, as well as removing debris from construction sites.

Construction and landscaping: Shovels are often used in construction and landscaping projects for tasks like grading, leveling, and excavating.

Agriculture and farming: Shovels are commonly used in farming and agriculture for tasks like planting, digging irrigation trenches, and harvesting crops.

Emergency situations: Shovels are sometimes used in emergency situations, such as digging out someone trapped in an avalanche or digging trenches for flood control.

There are many different types of shovels available, each designed for specific tasks and environments.
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