ErgoSkeleton helps keep workers in proper technique when carrying or lifting items
Poor lifting mechanics are one of the most common workplace injuries. According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 36 percent of the injuries involving missed workdays were the result of shoulder and back injures. Overexertion and cumulative trauma were the biggest factors in those injuries.
StrongArm Technologies develops tools to help the workforce with its lifting problem.
“We build products to help better the safety and lives of manual laborers whom we call the industrial athletes,” says StrongArm chief technology officer and co-founder Mike Kin. “We equip them with these products so that they can work protected and productive.”
PROVIDING A LIFT
One way StrongArm Technologies is aiming to help is with its V22 ErgoSkeleton. The V22 is an external spine that attaches to the back using a belt across the worker’s waist. Hand effectors connected to ropes coming from the shoulder area attach to the worker’s middle finger and ring finger on each hand.
The ErgoSkeleton becomes integral with the worker’s musculoskeletal system to improve lifting dynamics, safety and efficiency.
“The hand effectors have strings that transfer the load you are lifting from your hands, across your shoulders, down the spine and around your iliac crest,” says Kin. “So you kind of have strings attached from your hands all the way down to your waist.”
The ErgoSkeleton directs 80 to 90 percent of the load force to the strong muscles in a person’s buttocks and legs over the span of the lift. It concurrently transfers 50 to 75 percent of the force from the weaker tissues and muscles in a person’s hands, arms and lower back.
“What it does is it uses that mechanical leverage to distribute that load from your arms and lower back and transfer that load across your body,” Kin says. “Therefore it’s almost forcing you to lift like a forklift versus extending your arms fully and bending forward.”
“The V22 is very specific to certain job functions and tasks, it’s not one solution for all lifting tasks,” Kin adds. “If you’re lifting anything above your shoulder, we don’t recommend you use a V22 for that, but if you’re lifting something that’s over 15 or 20 pounds and you’re carrying it over a long distance, those are the kind of things we recommend.”
StrongArm has another model, the FLX, which is similar to the V22, only without the strings and hand effectors.
“It’s really just the external spine that runs along your back and we’ve built in some cool features and designs that help provide feedback as you’re lifting,” Kin says. “If you think about it, it’s like a lifting coach that sits on your back. Using your own body motions, it’ll give you feedback or resistance if you start lifting the wrong way.”
The company, based in Boston, is pleased with its first ErgoSkeleton and hopes it evolves into everyday required personal protective equipment like gloves, hard hats and boots.
“People start off lifting great with good posture, but as the day progresses and they get tired, what we’ve seen is that diminishes,” Kin says. “Our V22 and FLX will help contractors by constantly reminding them every time they start slouching over or twisting. It’s there to give you that corrective feedback.”