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Will exoskeleton technology reduce construction injuries?

The construction industry is riddled with risks that, until now, have been difficult to avoid.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are an estimated 74,000 work related injuries in the construction industry, each year.

However, what’s shocking, is of the 74,000 injuries reported, 54% were musculoskeletal. Not only is this number high compared to the total number of injuries, but it also affects the construction industry more than any other sector.

The main causes of musculoskeletal injuries are heavy lifting (28%) and material manipulation (19%).

This is huge concern for the construction industry where tasks are associated with risks other jobs don’t have to consider. Risk assessments are a step in the right direction, but it’s the task itself that is causing problems.

Repetitive work, posture and vibration from heavy machinery and tools, can impact the body in ways that are not always obvious. Damage to parts of the body, such as shoulders and joints, reveal themselves overtime, and when they start to cause issues it’s often too late.

Other musculoskeletal causes include:

  • bending, crouching or stooping
  • lifting heavy or bulky loads
  • pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads
  • stretching, twisting and reaching
  • repetitive work, particularly using the same hand or arm action
  • sustained or excessive force
  • carrying out a task for a long time
  • work with display screen equipment
  • working with hand-held power tools for a long time
  • driving heavy vehicles, long-distance driving or driving over rough ground

As you can see, the list above includes many of the tasks tradespeople do everyday, which might explain why injury in the construction industry is higher than other professions. It’s also worth mentioning how the environment can add to injury, too.

Tradespeople who work in conditions that require bright lights and high temperatures are more prone to injury. Work pressure and meeting the demands of being a sole trader can also cause issues.

In all circumstances, it’s crucial to have the correct PPE to do your job, and checks must be made on work sites to ensure environmental risks are as low as possible.

The correct lifting aids, hoists, harnesses, hardhats, belts and other equipment must meet regulation to reduce injury. However, prolonged exposure to work that impacts the body is often unavoidable. Luckily, there is a solution.

Living in the future

A group of organisations across Europe are currently trialing exoskeleton technology to tackle the issue of injury in the construction industry. There are as many as 44 million workers in the EU that suffer from musculoskeletal issues, costing a mammoth €240 billon a year.

Their project, Exskallerate, aims to reduce fatigue and discomfort with a range of solutions that literally take care of the hard work.

With support of business and research institutes, the project has identified key areas that need to be addressed and has developed wearables that solve these issues.

The project is being funded by Interreg North Sea Region, with demos taking place in Glasgow. Interreg is currently looking for construction firms to trial the technology.

You can see how it works in the video below.

Tradesman Talk

Have you ever suffered an injury at work? Are the aches and pains starting to catch up with you? Would you wear an exoskeleton suit if it made your job easier, and took the strain off your body?

Leave your comments below, and share this story on social.

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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