By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor
Exoskeletons are here! Formerly found in science fiction or action movies, exoskeletons have made the transition from fantasy to reality.
Exoskeletons are wearable devices that augment the physical capability of the worker. They have been developed for military operations and medical rehabilitation, but exoskeletons are increasingly found in industry. The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort.
Some exoskeletons are designed to provide postural support to the legs. Other exoskeletons provide assistance to the back or arms during lifting tasks. Yet another type of industrial exoskeletons may assist the whole body.
Despite their tantalizing promise of reduced fatigue and improved safety, there are many unanswered questions regarding the use of exoskeletons in industrial jobs.
- What are the short- and long-term consequences of using an exoskeleton on muscle conditioning and coordination?
- Does an exoskeleton affect a worker’s sense of balance or alter movement patterns?
- What physical sizes can be accommodated by the exoskeleton?
- What kind of training and how much training is needed for a worker to use an exoskeleton in performing his/her job?
- Are exoskeletons accepted by workers – why or why not?
- How effective are exoskeletons in reducing ergonomic injuries?
On March 9, 2018, a workshop at the 2018 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo will provide an overview of industrial exoskeletons. Exoskeleton manufacturers will demonstrate the features of their products and discuss their potential for improving safety and productivity.
Researchers will share results of their studies on the impact of exoskeletons on the human body. End users will share their experiences in using exoskeletons in real-world production jobs. Knowledge gleaned from this workshop will assist industry decision makers in determining whether exoskeletons would be beneficial to their operations and which exoskeletons would be most suitable.
Ohio Safety Congress & Expo attendees may also see various exoskeleton models and talk to sales representatives by visiting the exoskeleton booths in the Expo Marketplace (Hall B, Aisle 900) on March 7 and 8.
Admission to the workshop is free but seating is limited. Register in advance by calling 614-466-7695 or through online registration.