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

Industry Perspectives of the Potential of Wearable Robot for Pipe Installation Work

Nihar Gonsalves, Mohamad Khalid, Abiola Akinniyi and Abiola Akanmu
Pages 437-443 (2022 Proceedings of the 39th ISARC, Bogotá, Colombia, ISBN 978-952-69524-2-0, ISSN 2413-5844)

The physically demanding nature of construction work exposes workers to ergonomic risks resulting back-related musculoskeletal disorders. Back injuries amongst pipe installers increased by 2.3 times in the last year. Back support exoskeletons are emerging as a potential intervention to address back injuries. Without willingness of construction workers to use back-support exoskeletons, the intervention will not be successful in the construction industry. This paper presents the perception of pipe installers regarding the suitability of a commercially available back-support exoskeleton for pipe installation work. Fourteen pipe installers performed their regular work task with a passive exoskeleton during which they provided their experience with the wearable technology. The results indicate that the benefits of the exoskeleton, barriers to the use of the exoskeleton and modifications to the design of the exoskeleton. Participants perceived health benefits in terms of reduced back stress and recommended employing the exoskeleton for outdoor manual labor activities. There were concerns about the use of the exoskeleton in confined spaces and the compatibility of the exoskeleton with on-site safety provisions. Integration of safety harness with the wearable robot was identified to be an essential modification. The findings showcase willingness amongst the pipe installers to adopt exoskeletons. This study contributes to the existing literature on the suitability of passive back-support exoskeleton in construction.

Keywords: Wearable robot; User assessment; Pipe installation; Exoskeletons