Stuck Home? Put Your Skills to Use and Will the Exoskeleton Make the Construction Safer Place??
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
According to the 2019 Q4 USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index 33% of contractors are expecting to use wearable technology by 2022. In 2019, only 6% of contractors were using wearable technology on site. That is a huge jump in just 3 years. Exoskeletons didn’t really enter the labour industry until 2015. Considering how recent it was, this 33% prediction is a huge jump. The popularity of the machines speaks to the changes currently happening in the construction industry as a whole.
Innovation. Technology. Safety. Efficiency, these buzzwords have been leading the industry transformation driving construction forward faster than ever. Unlike other advancements like autonomous equipment, BIM, drones or fleet management systems (just to name a few), exoskeletons are wearable technology that could make workers safer, improve careers, and make employee management more efficient.
How Do Exoskeletons Make Construction Workers Safer?
Exoskeletons help to make construction workers safer by reducing the strain often put on joints and muscles through repetitive work and prolonged tasks. This is because the skeleton makes heavy machines and objects lighter to move, assists in the carrying and lifting, and reduces the impact of holding heavy machines for long periods of time.
These injuries – strain from repetitive movement and exposure to a constant force, vibration, awkward positioning and movement – are referred to as Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Construction Industry
Musculoskeletal disorder is a medical term that includes injuries in the muscular and skeletal systems of the body. These include injuries in joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and support systems of the limbs, back, and neck.
According to the Center for Construction Research & Training, the number of these kinds of injuries has gone down in recent years. However, injuries from overexertion in construction are still higher than in any other industry. These injuries are said to be one of the leading causes of non-fatal injuries in construction.
A CPI Business study from 2016 found that sprains, strains and tear injuries caused by overexertion resulted in the equivalent of over 4,000,000 lost workdays. In terms of monetary value, overexertion costs around $15 billion every year in compensation alone. The impact that these injuries have on industry efficiency and employee health should be taken seriously. Especially because these kinds of injuries can be prevented and avoided.
The added danger with these injuries is the impact they could have on an aging workforce. The average age of a construction worker is 41. With a labor shortage looming, the need to support current employees to have a safe and healthy career that is injury-free is more important than ever.
How Exoskeletons Are Being Used
Even if half of all overexertion and strain injuries could be mitigated through wearable technology, it would be a huge improvement. Reducing the impact of the daily jobs of workers could create a more healthy, vibrant, and resilient workforce.
There are so many different kinds of exoskeletons being used today.
Power Gloves are used to aid in the grasping and holding of materials and tools. These machines help to strengthen grip and improve the dexterity of its wearer.
Back Support exoskeletons are vital for lifting, bending, and reaching. Back strain and injury are some of the most common areas for strain and injury. Supporting back health inadvertently supports healthy arms, neck, and leg muscles. These machines help to ensure proper posture and reduce backpressure while performing tasks.
Arm and Shoulder Support is helpful for those contractors who do a lot of overhead work. Electricians, drywallers, and professionals working on ceilings could find a lot of benefits from these machines. These exoskeletons work by distributing the weight from shoulders and arms to reduce the strain put on these muscle groups.
Crouching and Standing exoskeletons can provide much-needed support for those who stand for most of their day. Installing drywall, drilling, or brickwork are a few examples of jobs where this particular form of exoskeleton could be helpful.
Finally, there is the full-body exoskeleton. Lifting, moving objects, carrying tools around the site, and performing other tasks can be facilitated with this form of an exoskeleton.
This robot could be tasked with carrying around your tools, opening doors while you carry materials around the site, or remotely monitoring your work and alerting a manager if an accident occurs. The possibilities are truly endless.
Robots could eventually be the key to really addressing the labor gap facing the market. Current employees could be trained to fill skill gaps, while tasks such as drilling and drywalling could be given to a programmable robotic machine, much like a bricklaying machine.
Opening The Door To The Future
Exoskeletons offer a way to make the industry safer for contractors. Their introduction into the industry took decades. It’s clear, however, now that the industry has its hands on this technology, construction will run with it.
Exoskeletons are here to stay and they could be signaling a future of robotics in construction.