Exoskeletons to prevent injuries in the workplace

Advanced technology to improve the occupational health of workers. To this end, the Umivale mutual company is working on a study aimed at reducing injuries among workers preparing orders in logistics warehouses.

“This is a very common job in many companies which, as a rule, is characterized by the constant and repetitive bending of the back and the bending of the legs to lift, move and move packages and products to fulfill orders all the time. long working day. It’s a task that requires muscular and postural effort in the lumbar, hips and knees, ”explains Jos Luis Cebrin, prevention manager at Umivale.

“Using an exoskeleton can help reduce fatigue, discomfort and the risks associated with repetitive activities and handling loads,” Cebrin said. This is the main objective of the study: to analyze the effect of a lumbar exoskeleton on the reduction of injuries in these jobs which require manual handling of loads. “The use of this equipment is presented as a possible ergonomic solution in cases where other technical or organizational measures are not feasible or effective to reduce the physical load in a workplace.”

For this, the mutual had the collaboration of the mutual company Kuups Design International SL, with a logistics center in the town of Montaverner and which allowed several of its workers to be studied in real life.

“Overwork accidents due to manual handling of loads have always been our company’s main focus. That is why, throughout these years, we have tried to minimize them and eliminate them both in postural hygiene training actions to prevent back injuries and in the redesign of loads and in organizational measures, ”said Jaime Calabuig, director of human resources at Kuups Design International. “We believe that using the exoskeleton is a tool that can greatly help reduce the risks associated with handling loads. It is a huge satisfaction for us to have done our part in this interesting study to reduce the injuries of workers in general, ”added Jaime Calabuig.

Redistribution of loads from the lower back to the legs and chest

“Load handling operations can become a potential hazard in the workplace when an employee has to handle loads on a recurring basis or due to poor work postures. These lumbar exoskeletons redistribute loads to the chest and legs and protect the lumbar area of ​​the worker’s back, thereby reducing pressure on the back and vertebrae, ”according to Cebrin.

The lumbar exoskeleton model with which the study is carried out in collaboration with the Institute of Biomechanics of Valencia (IBV) adapts to the size of the operator, weighs a little less than three kilos and does not need battery, because it works with the energy drawn from the worker’s own activity. Tests have been carried out with a variety of workers, both men and women, to integrate a gender perspective into the evidence and conclusions that are drawn.

Muscle load was assessed by surface electromyography (EMG) in various muscle groups, “in some cases to analyze whether their activity could potentially be reduced and, in others, due to the possibility of finding adverse effects due to an increase in their activity, ”said Cebrin.

The movement capture of workers was also achieved during task development through the use of inertial sensors placed on the head, trunk and upper and lower limbs, “allowing the tracking of the joints of interest for the study. “.

Finally, after performing the tests with the exoskeleton, study participants will complete a questionnaire in which they will be asked about their experience as users of the device. “We want to know if the use of the exoskeleton made it easier for them to perform tasks, if it was easy for them to take off and put on, as well as their perception of reduced muscle fatigue in the parts of the body studied. », Explained the manager of Umivale.

After the first phase of collecting information and carrying out tests, the phase of analyzing the data obtained will begin in order to draw conclusions that will serve to improve the occupational health of this type of worker and to prevent future injuries and illnesses.

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