Exoskeleton: the Strength and Stamina of a Body Suit

By Hays Companies Risk Analytics Team

Strains and sprains happen all too often in the manufacturing industry. The jobs often require repetitive positions and awkward motions throughout the workday. While some injuries are unavoidable, many are preventable through proper risk assessment and well-designed ergonomic protocol.

So you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with robotics?”

Interestingly, the FDA has approved the use of robotic exoskeletons to help paraplegic patients walk again.

At a high level, a robotic exoskeleton is a wearable mobile machine powered by a combination of electronic motors, hydraulics, and levers that allow for limb movement. For example, a full-body exoskeleton can lift large spools of wire without excess exertion or risk of strain or injury. As discovered, increasing the strength and stamina of workers through exoskeletons leads to a decrease in the frequency and severity of strain or sprain injuries.

While increasing the strength of workers is beneficial, robotic exoskeletons allow injured workers to return to work more quickly. Having a physical aide helps injured workers be productive, while recovering from an injury. The reduction of lost time is an effective way to decrease the severity of a workers’ compensation claim.

If you’re considering implementing robotic exoskeletons, below are a few items to evaluate:

  • Is it cost effective? Determining the break-even point on robotic exoskeletons requires an in-depth knowledge of your current workers’ compensation program and claims, as well as the price points of robotic exoskeleton products. 
  • Are your expectations realistic? Although workers produce at a higher rate while wearing a robotic exoskeleton, expecting too much too soon may create unintended consequences.
  • Is Risk Management involved? Getting your Risk Management team involved from the beginning and throughout the process is critical to a successful implementation and ongoing use of robotic exoskeletons.

It is too early to determine the exact metrics of the benefits of robotic exoskeletons; however, as time passes and manufacturing companies begin to implement them, a more accurate and precise idea will emerge. At Hays, we are actively researching and studying the impact robotics have on risk management, and will continue to share updates in this developing technology.

Continue Reading: