Publications / 2022 Proceedings of the 39th ISARC, Bogotá, Colombia

Impact of Passive Back-Support Exoskeletons on Manual Material Handling Postures in Construction

Ali Golabchi, Linda Miller, Hossein Rouhani and Mahdi Tavakoli
Pages 359-366 (2022 Proceedings of the 39th ISARC, Bogotá, Colombia, ISBN 978-952-69524-2-0, ISSN 2413-5844)

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are a leading contributor to workplace injuries in the construction industry, with the lower back being the most affected body part. To mitigate WMSDs, exoskeletons have been developed and recently introduced to industrial job sites to provide workers with assistance and support, reducing exposure to ergonomic risks. Due to the newness of industrial exoskeletons, successful application of this technology in the construction industry requires thorough evaluation of different aspects of its adoption to ensure a successful and effective uptake. As Manual Material Handling (MMH) tasks are the most common cause of lower back injuries, this study aims to evaluate the impact of using exoskeletons when adopting different postures during dynamic and static MMH tasks. An experiment is carried out and data reflecting Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), Level of Discomfort (LOD), overall fit and comfort, effectiveness, and limitation and interference levels is collected. Overall, the participants perceived the exoskeleton suit as effective with discomfort being reduced in the lower back and other body parts except the chest. However, the results indicate the importance of considering the specific task at hand (e.g., dynamic vs static MMH) and the posture adopted (e.g., squat vs bend) when evaluating and selecting an exoskeleton for construction tasks.

Keywords: Exoskeleton; Exosuit; Wearable Robot; Manual Material Handling; Ergonomics; Posture; Construction