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Exoskeletons: A promising development for construction site safety

August 8, 2022

The construction industry has consistently ranked as one of the most hazardous career fields, with its heavy lifting and reliance on large machinery creating heightened risk for sometimes permanently debilitating accidents. However, construction engineers and occupational safety and health experts are working to mitigate risks and reduce on-the-job incidents by developing and improving a promising workplace safety device: the exoskeleton.

 

Photo of exoskeleton suit used by construction workers

 

What is an exoskeleton?

The exoskeleton, sometimes called an exosuit, is a wearable suit with motorized joints designed to give the average construction worker enhanced strength and protection, equipping their arms, legs and back with a reinforced external shell that saves their limbs from strain, shields their body, and helps to improve posture. Workers wear the suit while performing strenuous tasks in order to add an increased level of protection and productivity to their jobs. While this device may sound impractical and look like something out of a Transformers film, it has gained traction in recent years and is already a staple at many construction sites. 

 

Increased popularity of exoskeletons

An article from constructionplacements.com reports that, “Exoskeletons are devices that are worn on the user’s body and operate as enhancers, enhancing, reinforcing, or reconstructing human performance. Exoskeletons, which were originally created for military use and patient mobility and rehabilitation, are increasingly showing up on construction sites.” 

Though this tech is hardly commonplace, the more it is used on various construction projects, the more companies see its value and want to employee it for their own staff. “Live testing on construction sites in the past year produced results that appear to be driving the development and use of exoskeletons in the construction sector in the coming years,” states the article.

 

Functions and features of exoskeletons

 While exoskeletons meant for their original use, in the military and for medical rehabilitation, tend to be fairly broad in their abilities, construction exoskeletons are highly specialized. Jean Thilmany of constructible.trimble.com lists several functionalities commonly seen with construction exoskeletons:

  • The mounted arm exosuit is a “Tool-holding exoskeleton composed of a spring-loaded arm that holds a heavy tool on one end and is connected to a lower-body exoskeleton and a counterweight… The exoskeleton helps workers use heavy hand-tools quickly so they can complete jobs faster, with less fatigue, and better workmanship.” 
  • An overhead exosuit “[offers] arm, neck, and shoulder support [to] aid workers as they perform overhead installation work such as installing ductwork or sprinklers. They reduce the load on the arm and neck muscles while cutting down on repetitive-stress injuries.” 
  • Crouching and standing support suits are known as “Chairless chairs [or] lightweight exoskeletons that lock in place and support users as they crouch or stand in the same position for long periods of time… [reducing] the pressure on the knee and the rest of the leg.” 

These exoskeletons, along with several other designs with varying functionalities, are helping to revolutionize the construction safety industry. As this technology continues to evolve, construction firms will be able to boast far fewer incident numbers and improved worker morale and efficiency. 

 

Learn more about Construction Safety with a Capitol Tech degree

Capitol Tech offers numerous degrees in construction and facilities, as well as degrees in occupational safety and health, where students can develop and implement new technology like exoskeletons to cut down on workplace hazards. To learn more about these programs, visit captechu.edu and check out the various courses and degrees offered. Many courses are available both on campus and online. For more information, contact admissions@captechu.edu, for Undergraduate, gradadmit@captechu.edu for Master's programs, and doctorate@captechu.edu for Doctoral programs.