Safety technology has been shown to reduce workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), but many employers don’t have the knowledge to properly assess and use these new tools, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
Risk-reducing technologies that address MSDs can lead to improved worker wellbeing and a better bottom line for employers, but NSC research reveals that many employers can’t effectively evaluate these advancements.
To address this issue, NSC released a report, Emerging Technologies for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders, to “help employers navigate the evolving technology marketplace.”
MSDs – such as tendinitis, back strains and sprains, and carpal tunnel syndrome – are the leading cause of worker disability, involuntary retirement and limitations to gainful employment, the NSC said.
This report “aims to bridge the gap between solution providers and adopters so that all organizations, regardless of their size or industry, can understand technology solutions available to minimize MSD risks and create safer outcomes for their workers,” said Sara Ischer, NSC MSD Solutions Lab program lead.
The report was published with funding from Amazon, a company that has struggled with employee ergonomic injuries, and developed in partnership with Safetytech Accelerator, a non-profit focused on safety and risk in industrial sectors.
Executives discuss MSD concerns, highlight successful use of tech
Emerging Technologies for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders references almost two dozen academic publications to assess the benefits of the most common ergonomics-related safety technologies, including:
- computer vision
- wearable sensors
- autonomous and semi-autonomous materials handling equipment
- digital twins, and
- extended reality.
Executives in various industries were interviewed to “better understand industry-specific MSD concerns and highlight successful applications of emerging technology.”
The report found that:
- computer vision may be a helpful tool for large organizations to more effectively aggregate and analyze ergonomic risks across an enterprise
- workers may benefit from the use of wearable sensors where use of engineering controls isn’t financially feasible, and
- passive exoskeletons, which have been proven to reduce muscle activity by up to 40% and can decrease worker fatigue by 45%, can reduce MSD risks from manual materials handling.