April 13, 2017
There’s a lot of physical effort required of factory workers, and the repetitive motions they use can lead to all sorts of musculoskeletal injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome in wrists, arms, and shoulders. Two professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe they are on track to creating a solution.
Professors Rob Radwin and Yu Hen Hu have secured grants from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a smartphone app that will combat workplace injuries.
The funding will allow the team to use videos to assess health outcomes in factory workers by visualizing and tracking repetitive motions that will allow them to then redesign certain jobs in the workplace.
Applied to a smartphone app, these measures would allow employers to assess the risk of injury to their employees by simply using their phone’s cameras to measure motions. The app will be programmed to re-engineer tasks to reduce hazards to workers.
How are the risks of repetitive motion handled now? Health and safety professionals currently judge risk on a 0-10 scale of hand activity. While such analysis requires special training in ergonomics and safety, errors still occur.
Smartphones already come with a high definition camera, high-speed processor, and cloud computing capability, so they are a perfect home for the professors’ new app. Once perfected, the professors hope the new app will be more accurate, objective, and reliable in assessing the workplace. And since it will be offered as an app and not as a separate piece of technology, the professors hope that it will be affordable enough for small businesses to use.