The Main Issues of Lifting Heavy Materials at Work and How Exoskeletons Can Help

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Lifting heavy items happens to be one of the top causes of injury in the workplace. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than 36 percent of injuries involving missed days of work resulted in back and shoulder injuries. Cumulative trauma and overexertion were the biggest factors in these injuries.

Lifting, carrying or handling objects at work often result in musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs), such as strains and sprains. The risk of injury is higher with twisting bending, heavy loads, and awkward postures. Effective ergonomic controls may reduce the risk and prevent injuries, as well as smart lifting practices and assistance by machinery such as forklifts. These can all reduce the chances of suffering from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist and elbow injuries, and spinal injuries.

However, now there’s a new kid on the block. Exoskeletons can be worn by employees in the workplace to reduce injury in a far less invasive manner. From manufacturing to construction, these suits can be utilized for just about every application.

The Risks

Injuries from handling and lifting loads can occur in several occupations, whereby workers are exposed to risk when they lower, lift or carry objects. Risk factors include: 

  • Load weight 
  • Proximity of the load to the body
  • Load size and shape
  • Distance the load must be carried 
  • Initial height of the load, as well as vertical distance lifted 
  • Lifting in combination with bending or twisting 
  • How long the load must be carried 
  • Number and frequency of lifts performed 

Add to those heavy lifting requirements, and you’ve got injuries arising from repetitive motions as well. With employees performing over-head motions, for example, several thousand times a day in many cases, overuse injuries abound. 

Exoskeletons can solve both injury types and problems.

Reduction of Musculoskeletal Loads

From a workplace health and safety standpoint, wearable exoskeleton devices are beneficial in reducing musculoskeletal loads that would not otherwise be helped by an engineering process change, says the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

It’s long been known that lifting and handling of heavy materials while also supporting heavy tools are both contributors to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and fatigue. MSDs account for about 30 percent of lost time workplace illnesses and injuries. In fact, the direct costs of injuries owed to overexertion with an outside source (lifting, pushing, turning, pulling, throwing, catching) hit $13.7 billion in 2018, equal to 23 percent of the overall national burden.

Exoskeletons are designed to support the lower back or joints during dynamic lifting, stooped working postures, static load holding and general support. Many studies have measured muscle activity, spinal loading, effort and muscle fatigue. They have found that:

  • Passive devices assisting with dynamic lifting reduce muscle activity by between 10 and 40 percent, reduce spinal loading by between 23 and 29 percent, and reduce overall muscle fatigue.
  • Passive devices that help with static trunk bending can reduce muscle activity by between 10 and 25 percent and spinal loading by between 12 and 13 percent.

Workplace injuries affect the health of employees as well as the company’s bottom line. When there are fewer workers are injured on the job, there’s not as much need to hire and train people to fill in for those who are recuperating.

Every company’s risks are unique. That’s why it’s possible for different companies to work with manufacturers to design exoskeletons encompassing features addressing their precise needs. 

How We Help

The exoskeletons designed at Ekso Bionics solve three main problems in the workplace: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Injury (caused by fatigue — usually shoulder, sprains, etc.)
  • Productivity (hindered by fatigue)

Fatigue is the top issue we rectify with our technology, as it can impact a variety of other workplace aspects. When a worker is fatigued, they are not as productive, and costly mistakes can happen, not to mention safety risks. Fatigue, which threatens the output your company can achieve, must be addressed first. Our exoskeletons for sale can solve that problem.

Contact Ekso Bionics

Ekso Bionics can help solve your heavy lifting issues at work with our exoskeletons for sale. To learn more, contact us at 510-984-1761.

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