Demining Handtools

Hand tools for investigating positive metal detection readings that fulfil the ergonomic needs of the ‘deminer’ whilst enforcing a safe distance from the cutting edge of the tool (the potential origin of a blast) and its operator.

Opportunity

The injuries that can follow the accidental detonation of a landmine are often attributed to the use of improvised tools (designed to better meet the needs of gardeners rather than deminers) or the misuse of existing long handled demining tools, both being unsafe practices which place the deminer’s hands within inches of a potential blast. In addition improvised tools have been known to fragment (as reported in the database of demining accidents), resulting in the injury / potential death of its operator. Demining is often carried out in uncomfortable conditions – environmental factors and boredom can affect the focus of deminers and increase the risk of an accident. Accidents can occur but without injury if properly specified tools are used in an appropriate way.

Note on existing tools

Tools have previously been developed specifically for humanitarian mine clearance teams (and more for military specific purposes), a good example in wide spread use has been developed by Andy Smith and can be viewed here.

Whilst good tools exist images and videos of improvised tools can be viewed on the websites of many NGOs – the tools pictured were designed to meet the needs of gardeners rather than deminers, they may be made of inappropriate materials and ergonomically require the deiminer to work in an unsafe manner.

An improvised tool being used by a deminer in Afghanistan to investigate a positive metal detection reading. – Image source – Jason P Howe

Development

My personal interest in tool development is how the ergonomics can influence working practices, The objective was to create tools that were easiest to use in the safest way – thereby promoting safe working practices. Experimentation lead to the development of a double-handed, shielded ergonomic grip which required the deminer to employ both hands when using the tool, with the handle having a range of detachable toolheads for use in differing terrain and tasks. This ensures that the deminers hands and body always remain a safe distance from the cutting edge of the tools – and therefore from the origin of any potential blasts.

Prototypes have been developed around the calculated pressure decay of the most powerful blast-mines (calculated and mapped using the ‘Kinney and Graham’ formula).

Early development of ergonomic rigs and prototypes

My work has been carried out in a custom made simulated environment to support the safe prototyping of scenarios – more information on this can be found here.