An investigation into the impact of safety features on the ergonomics of surgical scalpels

Xuefang Wu, Gareth Thomson, Benjie Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the case of surgical scalpels, blade retraction and disposability have been incorporated into a number of commercial designs to address sharps injury and infection transmission issues. Despite these new designs, the traditional metal reusable scalpel is still extensively used and this paper attempts to determine whether the introduction of safety features has compromised the ergonomics and so potentially the take-up of the newer designs. Examples of scalpels have been analysed to determine the ergonomic impact of these design changes. Trials and questionnaires were carried out using both clinical and non-clinical user groups, with the trials making use of assessment of incision quality, cutting force, electromyography and video monitoring. The results showed that ergonomic performance was altered by the design changes and that while these could be for the worse, the introduction of safety features could act as a catalyst to encourage re-evaluation of the ergonomic demands of a highly traditional product.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-432
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • surgical scalpels
  • safety
  • medical devices


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