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How exoskeletons can prevent assembly line worker injuries

Working on an automobile assembly line can be a physically challenging job. Now Ford Motor Company is introducing wearable technology that will make its assembly line employees’ jobs a little easier. The company is outfitting workers in 15 of its plants both here in the U.S. and abroad with exoskeleton vests.

Exoskeleton technology has been around for decades. It’s been used to help people with spinal cord injuries regain some of their previously mobility and even walk. However, the gear being used at Ford is intended to reduce worker injuries.

Repetitive stress injuries are common in this type of work. One worker, who uses a gun to tighten screws while standing below vehicles says that he raises his gun “500 times a day.”

Besides lessening the effort he needs to exert to do this, the exoskeleton improves his posture. He says it’s improved his quality of life outside of work because “I can go home and have fun and go play catch with the daughter” rather than being too tired.

The exoskeleton vests being used at Ford cost approximately $6,000 each. However, they’re expected to pay off in the savings that will result from fewer injuries. One ergonomics expert at the automaker says that shoulder injuries can run as high as $100,000 in medical and rehabilitation costs.

The same technology can have the same results for airplane manufacturers and their assembly-line employees. Boeing is testing an exoskeleton in a pilot program involving mechanics who work on 787 airliners.

This technology is expected to become more common in the future where it can prevent common injuries, such as repetitive-stress injuries. These are common in production environments.

If you’ve suffered a repetitive stress or other type of injury on the job, it’s essential to explore all of your options for compensation, including workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability (SSD), so that you can continue to provide for your family while you are healing.

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