Smartphones are often in the headlines for in some way contributing to the risk of injuries. Typically, this has to do with their propensity to distract users, whether they are walking down the street, getting behind the wheel, or doing anything else that requires their full attention.
However, a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that smartphone technology could be used to help lower the risk of workplace injuries.
Specifically targeted in this study is factory and manufacturing work. Manufacturing companies require workers to make, package, prepare, and deliver products we use each day. The physical demands of this labor can result in a host of serious injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. Work injuries are trouble not just for employees and their families, but also for companies, which must pay workers’ compensation benefits and also lose out on time and productivity. Industrial engineering professors say they have found a way to tackle these problems.
One professor has been studying these issues for decades and says a relatively simple tool may be able to dramatically lower work injury risks.
It involves the way health and safety professionals currently measure the risk of these repetitive motion injuries. As it stands, these professionals must make subjective judgments about that risk, based on the scale of the hand activity in which workers are engaged. Some of these measures will provide reasonable predictions. However, researchers say relying on human observation alone means there are going to be errors. Carefully analyzing and judging individual work roles takes a great deal of time and training and expertise, as well as time spent carefully watching the nuances of a worker’s actions over an extended period.
Now, researchers say that process can be sped up. Professors of industrial, electric, and computer engineering teamed up to develop an algorithm that recognizes hand activity levels.
The study was completed with a $1.4 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which will now allow these researchers to further test this technology to develop a whole new system for measuring health outcomes of certain types of repetitive motions. By using smartphone technology to assess this risk, employers and workers will be able to identify patterns and areas of possible risks. Ultimately, that may change the way certain jobs are performed. The hope is ultimately it will drive down the number of industrial work injuries attributed to repetitive motion, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Professors say all of the technology needed to complete this advanced risk assessment is on smartphones. It requires a high definition camera, a high-speed processor, and the ability to cloud compute.
Once the technology is available, manufacturers could use it relatively easily, potentially just with a video shot with a handheld cell phone in a regular work space. The app will be able to identify certain motions and quantify them so that employers will accurately get a sense of the kinds of injuries their workers may sustain if they continue with current processes. By making it available in a cell phone app, researchers say the technology would be available to both small- and large-scale employers.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Smartphone technology could combat workplace injuries, March 15, 2017, By Lexy Brodt, University of Wisconsin
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