Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
When it comes to preventing spine injuries in the workplace, management can show as many educational videos as possible or display countless instructional signs about the proper lifting techniques, but employees are still going to lift in improper ways from time to time, which jeopardizes the safety of their spine. Management can’t be in every location to oversee every lift to ensure proper techniques are being used, but technology can.
Researchers at the University of Quebec in Canada have invented a smart sensor that can be placed in a person’s shoe that will automatically detect if they are in a bad position for a lift. Co-creator Eya Barkallah said the idea behind the device stemmed from the fact that many people can’t see that they are using poor form, so technology that alerts them that their back is in danger could help to prevent dangerous lifting techniques.
“We wanted to find a preventative treatment for work-related injuries,” said Barkallah.
Preventing Back Injuries On The Job
The sensors work by measuring pressure and weight distribution in certain areas of the foot. When combined with a safety-hat mounted accelerometer that tracks how fast the individual is moving, the technology can detect if a person is stressing their spine instead of lifting with the help of their knees.
To determine if the sensors could accurately predict when a person was using the wrong lift, researchers put them to the test with the help of some volunteers. Workers donned the equipment and were asked to lift boxes in three different ways. Half of the time they were asked to use the wrong lifting techniques, while the other times they followed safe lifting protocols. The data was then analyzed by a computer algorithm, which correctly identified good and bad lifting habits with 95 percent accuracy.
In its current state, the technology can identify which users used good and bad lifting techniques throughout their shift, but researchers want to take it a step further and help workers realize in real-time that they are using stressful techniques. Barkallah said the next step is to add a button to the system that vibrates or makes a sound when incorrect lifting posture is being used.
Barkallah admits that it’s not a perfect system, but it can help workers self-identify when they are using poor lifting techniques so they can correct the problem and reduce their risk of spine injury. However, Barkallah hopes to perfect the technology and make it available to workers who lift heavy equipment on a regular basis. She believes workers in Amazon warehouses, baggage handlers and construction workers could all benefit from posture-alerting technology.
Minnesota Spine Doctor
For more tips on preventing spine pain caused by lifting heavy objects, check out this blog, and be sure to reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office if you are dealing with spine pain in the workplace.