Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disruptive and costly for workers, employers and society. Wearable technology can help address the risks of injury and keep workers engaged in the process by enabling them to self-manage their safety.
One of the more recent advancements is the introduction of industrial wearables in the workplace. Designed to improve workplace productivity, safety, and efficiency, these devices reside on the waist, wrist, or chest of the workers they support. The wearables collaborate together not only to train the individual on his/her biomechanics, but to give management aggregate insights to target additional training. Collecting and comparing over time, a company is able to see progress via dashboards and reports which directly correlate to costs in worker compensation.
Musculoskeletal Injuries at work cost the individual, the organization, and society. The economic burden of MSDs in Canada is estimated to be $22 billion annually, and a significant number of these disorders are attributed to related workplace hazards. MSDs account for 43% of all work-related injuries, 43% of all lost-time claim costs, and 46% of all lost-time days. Many of these injuries are related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing.
When it comes to workplace manual handling and training, one-size-fits-all doesn’t always match. There are a considerable number of evidence-based reviews supporting the idea that the effectiveness of classroom training is limited, and the principles are not applied in the working environment. Traditional training also fails to address the compounding factors of lifting technique, posture, task repetition and intensity, which is often the cause of lower back pain onset and musculoskeletal disorders, rather than a singular instance of poor manual handling.
Predictive analysis and AI are becoming the leading resource to help prevent injuries. Using big sets of personalized data to recognize and provide recommendations about how a worker is behaving can help to train the worker in a more personalized fashion.
Wearable technology used for safety has already developed beyond the inception stage, and is becoming readily available to help reduce injuries and increase awareness in many aspects of safety for individuals and organizations alike. Because of the fast-paced advancement of the technology, safety departments can address all categories of risk factors related to MSDs with one tool, saving organizations time and money.
Risk factors around MSDs at work can be categorized into three areas: the individual (psychosocial and physical behaviors and limitations), the environment, and the task. One benefit of wearable technology is that it can be used to address all three factors to limit exposure to workplace musculoskeletal injuries and help to reduce the high-risk movements that often lead to injury.
With safety top of mind for employers and employees alike, it’s an ideal time to build on workplace safety programs and make already good safety cultures even better. Wearables can serve as an important tool – this connected tech offers objective, actionable insights companies would otherwise not have. As well, it engages workers in the safety process, empowering them to take control of their safety and participate in productive feedback as a team.
About the Author
Humo spurred from Christian’s time working as a safety advisor for a national safety association, and seeing how musculoskeletal injuries were negatively impacting both workers and employers. He was inspired to start Humo, realizing that through a digital platform he could make a greater impact on musculoskeletal injuries, saving companies millions of dollars a year in injury-related costs and helping hardworking folks stay injury free.
While studying kinesiology in university, he was introduced to the impact that utilizing proper body mechanics can have on reducing workplace injuries in physically demanding occupations.
In addition to his work at Humo, Christian is a management consultant at a big 4 firm specializing in infrastructure advisory and holds an MBA and law degree.
Humo is a safety science startup company producing AI-supported wearable solutions that reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries in the workplace. As an early-stage startup, the company is currently conducting test pilot projects in a number of industries including logistics, manufacturing and healthcare, helping leading companies to reduce musculoskeletal injuries.