Despite the fact that the labor force is replaced by machines and robots on constructions, there are some types of work that still require human physical strength. The excessive strain on improper lifting is one of the most common injuries in the workplace, where heavy lifting is part of everyday tasks. The lower part of the back and knees are the two most common parts of the body that are usually damaged. Therefore, Erik Höglund from the Lund University has developed an innovative supporting suit Exosuit for heavy-lifting workers that provides with extra strength and minimizes overexertion. Exosuit is constructed with air-filled channels that, triggered by muscle sensors, expand and stabilize the user' back and give knees extra strength when lifting incorrectly.
Despite the availability of advanced technology and high-performance robotic technology, the rate of injuries and deaths on construction sites is quite high all over the world. According to the Health and Safety Executive, each year around 80,000 construction workers in Great Britan suffer from an illness they believe was caused or made worse by their work. Around 40% of these cases were new conditions, which started during the year, while the remainders were long-standing conditions. 52,000 were cases of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), of which just under a third were new conditions. Fatal injuries in the construction industry declined 38% between 2006 and 2010 in the US. Nevertheless, the overexertion by incorrect lifting is one of the most common injuries at workplaces. More and more workers are suffering from this injury as a result of the high demand for production and workforce. The lower back and knees are the two most common parts of the body that are injured which often results in a layoff or sick leave.
The Exosuit is equipped with muscle sensors and air channels that are monitoring the important muscle groups for lifting heavy objects. The air filled channel expands and creates a movement to support the muscles. The waistcoat has vertical air channels, which has the ability to shift from a flexible state to a stiffer support state in order to distribute the lift down to the knees. The air is compressed in special cartridges and located in the waistcoat. The air cartridges can supply the waistcoat with air for a long time. Furthermore, it can be easily refilled with the help of the compressor. The main goal of this technology is to decrease numbers of injuries before they happen. Moreover, this technology can also be applied to post-care and rehabilitation periods in order to support and help training after the injury. Exosuit has a big potential since the current exoskeletons are very expensive and not as flexible as the rehabilitation process needs. The next step of this project will be to make full-scale models and evaluate the performance and the impact of this suit will have during the lifting.