What is NIOSH?
Established in 1970 under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a US federal agency dedicated to ensuring worker safety and health. To improve workplace safety, NIOSH conducts research, collects data, and develops evidence-based recommendations. The organization also monitors emerging health and safety issues through surveys and evaluates the effectiveness of interventions.
NIOSH establishes standards and guidelines for occupational safety and health based on current research. These guidelines cover various topics, such as air contaminants, respirators, and hearing loss prevention. By collaborating with employers, labor organizations, and government agencies, NIOSH aims to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses while promoting the health and well-being of workers.
The NIOSH Lifting Equation
In response to the high incidence of back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among workers who manually lift heavy loads, NIOSH developed the NIOSH Lifting Equation. This tool assesses the level of risk associated with manual lifting tasks by considering factors such as load weight, distance, lifting frequency, and lifter posture. The equation calculates a recommended weight limit for the task, beyond which the risk of injury increases.
Many industries and organizations use the NIOSH Lifting Equation to assess lifting tasks’ risk and identify ways to reduce the risk of injury. For example, exoskeleton manufacturers employ the NIOSH Lifting Equation to assess and design their devices, determining whether their exoskeletons reduce physical stress on the body during lifting tasks and, if so, by how much. This information can help improve exoskeleton design and effectiveness in preventing work-related musculoskeletal injuries and disorders in construction and other industrial workplaces.
NIOSH and Exoskeletons
NIOSH recognizes exoskeletons as potential tools for preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in high-risk workers. These wearable devices come in two forms: passive exoskeletons, which use unpowered mechanisms to support posture or movement, and active exoskeletons, which employ powered force/torque-generating elements.
WMSDs often result from sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, and awkward workplace positions. Research indicates that exoskeletons can reduce the risk of WMSDs in various body parts, including the lower back, upper body, and knees. As an ergonomic intervention, exoskeletons can assist construction workers in performing manual, repetitive tasks while enhancing worker safety.
The problem-solving ability of humans is indispensable. However, the rising number of musculoskeletal disorders proves that the human body isn’t suited for the heavy labor demands of industrial work. Exoskeletons offer an ideal solution for companies aiming to merge the advantages of humans and machines.
By incorporating exoskeletons, skilled workers can maintain or improve their performance while receiving physical support from devices that boost lifting capabilities and decrease strain on their bodies. This additional support allows employees to work more comfortably for longer durations, significantly mitigating injury risks.
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