Hand tools may be small enough to lift with the hands, but they pose a considerable threat to the user’s safety. Even automation has not replaced the need to use the hands, especially for mechanics. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that hand injuries accounted for roughly 20% of workplace injuries.
The best tool balancers reduce the risk of injuries by providing storage when a tool is unused. They help lift heavy tools to give your arms relief while working.
Tool balancers are essential if you are concerned about staying fit and serving customers with premium service. They will reduce fatigue from any repetitive motion in your workshop. Nevertheless, you must carefully select the right tool balancer for use.
The Best Tool Balancers and Their Ideal Usage
Different brands will play around with the design, but the basic working principle of the tool balancers remains the same. Spring balancers are the most common but can be tweaked to accommodate more uses. Nonetheless, they will all have a support cable for carrying the tools.
These tool balancers are designed to carry different weights. Some can take heavy-duty tools that weigh over 300 lb. Even so, you want as much flexibility in your movements as possible.
Here is a list of the best to help you pick the right tool balancer for your automotive workshop or assembly line. They include the following:
- Standard Retractors
- Air hose
Standard Tool Balancers (Retractors)
The simple spring balancers are retractable. That means they will retract the tool once you let go of it. They have a simplicity that works for the most basic applications.
Pulling down unwinds the cable, bringing the equipment or tool to you. On the other end, the internal spring counters the load and pulls it back immediately after the operator lets go of it. The pullback force is smooth and slow enough to prevent any injury.
You can also call them retractable tool balancers. They might look simple, but you will have improved ergonomics with them.
The cable can be made of stainless steel, Dyneema, or polypropylene.
Best Use Cases
The spring applies continuous pressure, or upward tension, on the tool. As a result, your arm must also work against the pressure while moving the instrument around.
Standard spring tool balancers are great, but not ideal for heavy tools. They have weight constraints that limit them to lighter equipment. Moreover, you don’t want your arm to contend with heavy loads while working.
Air Hose Balancers
Air tool balancers work with pneumatic equipment, and they help avoid cable clutter. They carry air hoses for direct connection to your tools, unlike the spring balancers with a simple hook mechanism. Still, they have similar working principles.
Removing the need for a secondary air hose reduces the risk of a trip and fall or slip-and-fall worker injury. The air tool balancers also reduce the risk of puncturing the hoses.
Best Use Cases
Air hose balancers are ideal for operators working with pneumatic equipment. They enable a simple connection of the air hoses and eliminate the need for secondary cables.
Nevertheless, they are not ideal for heavy tools. This limitation is due to the hose lifting capacity.
Instances that require air hose balancers include assembly lines with pneumatic screwdrivers. You will be glad to have a balancer to call upon when needed.
These are the top-of-the-line tool balancer collections. They can carry more weight than the retractor or air hose spring balancers. However, they are also the most expensive in the set, with the cost rising as the load increases.
Zero gravity balancers utilize a specially designed tapered drum mechanism, which facilitates seamless movement throughout the entire stroke. This innovative feature ensures that the tool remains stationary wherever it is positioned, thereby enhancing convenience and efficiency. Whether the balancer is used for lifting, suspending, or manipulating objects, its tapered drum design guarantees a stable and secure hold at any point along the stroke
Best use cases
The operator will experience less arm fatigue when using the zero-gravity type. That is because of the tool's absence of resistance or upward pressure. These balancers don’t come cheap, but they are worth the cost.
Zero gravity tool balancers can handle heavier loads. They can lift them effortlessly when not needed and release them when the operator drags them down. Their gentle operation makes them indispensable for heavy loads and safety.
Explosion-resistant tool balancers
Explosion-resistant tool balancers share a similar construction to the spring retractor or zero-gravity balancer. These balancers are engineered with specific features and materials to minimize the risk of sparks, heat generation, or any other potential ignition source that could lead to an explosion.
Best use cases
Explosion-resistant balancers are ideal for hazardous areas with flammable substances. That includes combustible gasses and any explosive substance. As a result, you will have both ergonomics and fire safety covered.
Picking a Tool Balancer for Your Workshop or Assembly Line
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recorded 139,000 new cases of musculoskeletal disorders in 2022. Carrying heavy tools increases the risk of having this disorder, especially in cases with repetitive motions. Hence, tool balancers are indispensable in the workshop.
Although some tools are light, lifting them repeatedly will strain the arms. Imagine lifting electric torque wrenches or pneumatic screwdrivers daily on an assembly line.
The key to enhancing productivity is not picking a random tool balancer off the shelf. Instead, it is taking the one that fits the application.
The zero-gravity tool balancer is the best if you want one that gives the best service and handles heavy weights effortlessly. It has a higher load capacity and good safety features.
Air hose balancers minimize cable travel and help keep the workshop clutter-free. Pick them if you use small and light pneumatic tools.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified excessive force in lifting heavy loads as a cause of musculoskeletal disorders. Applying much power to lift a load is often a result of poor ergonomics in the workshop. As a mechanic, you should have tool balancers to carry the most used equipment.
Spring balancers are the most affordable and common. However, the retractor models exert an upward force that adds to the pressure your arms must counter when working. Zero gravity tool balancers are the best choice for heavy tools and where precision of movement is important.