The Rising Interest of Exosuits
The long-term effect of body postures or movements that incline the back and arc the spinal cord manifests itself as backaches which can either be mild or acute, depending on how it is managed.
Factory workers whose line of duty involves having to pick and drop heavy stuff several times during their work shift usually have to deal with back injury and waist pain.
This is the experience of Kennedy, a factory worker who has to work several hours each day on a shift that requires doing the same thing till the end of his shift.
Bending and carrying cartons of products and getting them prepared for distribution, bending to operate heavy-duty machines, pushing heavy carts from one production point to another.
These are his routines day in, day out.
Until his productivity at work started to decline, and finally, he stopped showing up for work.
He was sick.
His back was on fire. It aches so bad he can barely walk appropriately to the bathroom.
All that the hardworking, agile Kennedy could do was to lie on his back in bed all day, hoping the pain would go away. While popping pain killers.
His supervisor visited him because he was diligent, and everyone felt his absence from the factory.
The pain became bearable, and soon, Kennedy was ready to return to work but would require something to help his back and prevent recurring pain. He learned how to use an exoskeleton while handling his work tasks. He used it until he felt ready to be disconnected from it. His back aches had disappeared, and he could take on more tasks at work.
So he dumped the exoskeleton.
Not because he did not have need for it anymore, but because even though the exoskeleton helped him rid-off pain in his lower back, it kept interfering in the way he did his work. There was a limit to how freely he could move. He could not bend too low or stretch and reach too high. It was a struggle for him to maneuver between narrow aisles because the exoskeleton did not fit his body tight and had to stick out of his body.
Even though Kennedy and his boss agreed that the exoskeleton was a great invention and helped Kennedy get back on his feet, they knew the invention could be better, especially as it interfered with movements at work.
What does this imply for new innovations?
Innovations are great. We have seen the advent of several innovations such as cars, smartphones, computers, and even the internet. What is peculiar to these innovations is how much ease of use it gives the user. What determines the acceptance of any invention is how much flexibility and comfort it provides to the user.
Naturally, people will revolt against innovations that make things difficult for them. People will struggle with adopting new technologies if they do not ease while using them.
This is why site supervisors should always ensure their workers wear useful pieces, in the sense that it does not hinder them from doing their work. Workers should be aided in accepting innovations that help them solve problems as fast as they come. It is counterproductive when these work safety kits stand in the way of their efficiency at work.
So, before you introduce new technology or innovation that aids safety at the workplace, you must consider how much comfort it provides to the users while they carry out their daily tasks at work. Simply put, the greater the level of comfort during use, the faster the adoption of the innovation.
Exosuits are a practical innovation for the industrial sector. However, the best exosuits are those that are easy to fit into all kinds of body structures. Also, it is comfortable enough that it can be worn for longer hours. It should not restrict the wearer from bending, stretching, reaching, and lifting. It should provide maximum comfort to the workers because their livelihood depends on maintaining an erect spine throughout their working years.
This is why it is pertinent that companies consider safety wears such as exoskeletons or exosuits to limit the impact of the forceful push and pull on the spines of their workers.
To further enhance usability, sensors have been included in these safety wears. These sensors are meant to alert the wearer when their activities begin to pose a threat to their spine. The sensor is a necessary innovation as it collects employee data and provides information on the risk level of each task at work. The response to the insights provided is used to train workers on maintaining the right posture while at work.
In 2017, Geodis, a logistic company based in Dutch, adopted the use of exosuits to mitigate against chronic back pains among their workers. DHL also promised to adopt the use of soft Exosuits to reduce back strain and enhance the productivity of their delivery staff.
Exosuits or Exoskeletons as a lasting solution to backaches among industry workers
Kennedy's experience is proof that people will embrace innovation as long as it does not inhibit their movement while in use. The willingness to adapt to new technologies such as safety kits and wearables varies. On what, you may ask? It is dependent on how fast it increases the overall quality of their life by reducing the strain on their backs, improves productivity at work by reducing risks attached to bending and lifting, and the level of comfort it provides to the workers.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are the primary challenges site workers encounter in their line of duty. The long-term effect of these disorders is a permanent loss of livelihood or a reduction in shift hours. According to the Bone and Joint Initiative, the financial implication of backaches is pegged at a whopping $253 billion. This is why exosuits are a welcome innovation because it promises a lasting solution to these musculoskeletal disorders faced at work and promises to make workers comfortable and at ease while in use.