Wearable tech shows promise for the safety of warehouse workers

in July 19th, 2021

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We’ve all experienced that moment of amazement over how quickly a package has arrived, but behind this delight is a darker scene of overworked and strained warehouse workers worsened by pandemic spending habits. In fact, there is an alarming rise in injury rates, especially at Amazon, prompting sharp criticism and employee petitions over inadequate breaks and the fast pace of the physically demanding work.

While Amazon has announced a $300M investment in worker safety, a more innovative solution has come to the forefront for warehouses globally: exosuits, a wearable technology that helps ease the strain of lifting heavy boxes by up to 40%. These five pound “backpacks” are laced with sensors and algorithms that detect how workers move to help them lift and load through a warehouse. Created by Verve, Inc., over 250 exosuits are currently being piloted across multiple U.S. grocer locations after being tested on both male and female workers of different body types and ages.

That said, the long-term impact of this technology is being debated. While the goal is to reduce worker fatigue and soft tissue injuries, some safety experts claim it’s not an adequate substitute for other injury prevention methods, such as regular ergonomic training (proper use of equipment, tools, and machine controls) or limiting the time workers spend on strenuous activities. Advocates of the technology are touting the financial benefits as well. OSHA estimates that it costs employers nearly $1B per week for worker injuries whereas an exosuit can cost only $1,200 each.

Some additional resources...

→ Full coverage: Wall Street Journal

→ Exosuit’s origins: Verve Motion

→ Exosuit-like technology in logistics: DC Velocity

→ Poor warehouse working conditions: The Guardian

→ Amazon’s investment in worker safety: CNBC

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