Wearable technologies are designed to help keep workers safe and prevent work-related injuries. Powered exoskeletons allow workers to maintain flexibility and ease of motion while increasing strength, stability, and endurance. Companies are beginning to implement, and even require, exoskeleton technologies in industrial environments, such as manufacturing and construction. Many believe that industrial exoskeletons are the answer to decreasing the high number of lost workdays due to musculoskeletal injuries.
How Do Exoskeletons Work?
An industrial exoskeleton is a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) that supports manual labor tasks. The purpose of this type of PPE is to help prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries, which, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), causes more than one-third of all lost workdays. These wearable robots vary in structure and material and can be used in a wide variety of settings. They are distinguishable by several factors, including:
- Construction material – There is currently a shift in the market from rigid to soft exoskeletons. Rigid exoskeletons can be too bulky, causing workers to suffer fatigue and twist in unnatural positions. New designs are geared toward a softer, lighter exoskeleton that allows for greater range of motion.
- Power source – Some exoskeletons are powered, relying on battery power, compressed air, and other power sources. Unpowered exoskeletons can also improve ergonomics and reduce worker fatigue.
- System form – Some exoskeletons are made for the upper body while others are for the lower body. They can assist workers in gripping, performing overhead tasks, lifting heavy objects, and other potentially harmful work tasks.
Toyota Makes Exoskeletons Mandatory
Last year, Toyota made exoskeletons mandatory PPE for overhead work in its Ontario, Canada plant. The device uses a pulley system to reduce muscle activity in the shoulders and arms by up to 30 percent. According to the company’s health and safety manager, the lightweight exoskeleton helps to eliminate risks associated with working overhead; a primary cause of injuries at the plant. This claim is supported by an Iowa State study, which found that workers who used the exoskeleton had a 20 percent average reduction in muscle load.
Toyota currently uses metal and fabric exoskeletons at two facilities to help brace workers’ arms and reduce muscle fatigue. Other automakers, including Ford, are conducting studies to test the efficacy of various arm-assist upper body exoskeletons.
Workers’ Compensation for Physical Injuries
Pennsylvania workers who suffer work-related injuries may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Repetitive motion injuries and pre-existing conditions that were worsened by work activities may be covered. Workers should seek the counsel of a qualified attorney in their local area to ensure that their rights are protected.
Contact a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Philadelphia if You Need Help Collecting Benefits for a Musculoskeletal Injury
If you suffered a musculoskeletal injury due to your work, a workers’ comp lawyer in Philadelphia at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. can help. Our skilled attorneys have over 40 years of experience representing injured workers throughout the state. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.