Industrial innovation is impacting industrial ergonomics and risk management and helping to keep employees safe and engaged.

By
Darren Chasteen, Head of Ergonomic Consulting Division, The Hartford
Vincent Cotto, Senior Ergonomic Consultant, The Hartford
Michael White, Senior Ergonomic Consultant, The Hartford

From wearables to 3D motion technology, IoT (Internet of Things) is ushering in a whole new approach to risk management. It’s estimated that employers pay nearly $1 billion a week for direct workers’ compensation costs, and nine out of the top 10 preventable injuries and absences are linked to musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic practices. This explains why the industrial IoT market is on track to be worth $739 billion by 2025 according to the Industrial IoT Market Research Report by Market Data Forecast in April 2021. IoT devices such as Modjoul company’s Smartbelt, which collects on the job motion, location, and environmental data to proactively identify if a worker is at risk of getting injured, is helping to show a double-digit reduction in ergonomic risk – and the costly claims that go with them.

IoT Devices Are Minimizing the Hurdles of On-Site Monitoring

Before the advent of wearables and 3D motion capture technology, ergonomic specialists would spend hours on-site – taking videos, measuring, and putting pen to paper. Now with advanced technology and the internet, the work can be done in seconds.

Historically, experts would have to be onsite to measure angles, distance and reaches. Today, IoT software is helping to bridge that gap rather than having to send a person on-site. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a greater push to do everything virtually. This has accelerated the use of IoT devices and forced the industry to expand off-site.

With these devices, industrial ergonomics professionals can also be more efficient in how they work with clients. Even post-pandemic, the virtual risk assessment can be the new normal given the flexibility and efficiency of data-backed wearables and 3D motion technology.

IoT Devices Can Enhance Proactive Risk Management

However, it is not enough for an employer to think that because they have no claims that means they are safe. Proactive ergonomics should be the goal for employers because it is cheaper and more efficient, especially if building a workspace, redesigning one or implementing a new process. It can have a significant impact when designing it right the first time rather than finding out there is a problem on the back end with multiple claims and then trying to implement a protocol.

Even As Manufacturers Look To Automate Parts Of Their Production Human Workers Are Still Needed IoT Ergo Photo3, Industry Today
Even as manufacturers look to automate parts of their production, human workers are still needed.

IoT Devices May Help Retain Workers – and Keep Them Healthy

Even as manufacturers look to automate parts of their production with robots, human workers are still needed, and those workers are becoming harder to hire. Employers can blame supply chain issues and ensuing on-and-off again layoffs, as well as the Great Resignation. However, on-the-job injuries are a perpetual part of the equation too. Finding employees and keeping them are reoccurring themes. It continues to be a problem. With 3D motion technology, employers can eliminate risks for the workforce, so they can help keep employees safe and engaged.

An aging workforce also creates opportunities for IoT devices, as employees may experience a decrease in flexibility, mobility, and strength capacity as they age. Other underlying health conditions may also exacerbate an injury. Also, when an older adult gets hurt, the impact of the injury may be more severe and lengthen recovery durations, creating further obstacles to returning to work. Prevention is always better than a post-claim intervention.

In addition, as employees are an employer’s most important asset, productivity depends on keeping employees safe and on the job. An employee missing work can impact productivity and has a financial effect on manufacturers with employers paying 88% of costs related to an employee absence. Therefore, the sooner an employee can return to work, the better it is for the employee and manufacturer. This is where on-site injury prevention services can help.

IoT Devices Are Not a Substitute for Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  

Some employers may also think that if they’re monitoring every bend, pull, push and torque, then they are in good shape. However, they are mistaken. Monitoring is not armor. It does not prevent the hazard by any means. It only pinpoints where the hazard might be. It helps to identify where employers should look, and then develop an engineering control or elimination of the hazard. However, as exciting and useful as this world of tech is, there is no replacement for a face shield, cut-resistant gloves or other required PPE for the job. PPE education and training are as important as ever to avoid an invincibility complex with the use of smart ergonomics.

IoT Devices Provide Powerful Data

Smart ergonomics offers robust data, and lots of it. But employers should know: IoT devices do not offer solutions. Employers can measure a lot of things, but if they don’t know how those measures are trending or how they are affecting the organization or bottom line, then the information is wasted. That’s where a comprehensive industrial ergonomic program is key. Ergonomic professionals come in and help with both the collection of data and the analysis of it. Industrial ergonomics and the use of IoT devices is about the long game. After all, the stats don’t lie.

About The Authors

Darren Chasteen The Hartford, Industry Today
Darren Chasteen

Darren Chasteen is Head of Ergonomic Consulting Division at The Hartford.
Website: Business, Home & Car Insurance Quotes | The Hartford Insurance

Vincent Cotto The Hartford, Industry Today
Vincent Cotto

Vincent Cotto is Senior Ergonomic Consultant at The Hartford.
Website: Business, Home & Car Insurance Quotes | The Hartford Insurance

Michael White The Hartford, Industry Today
Michael White

Michael White is Senior Ergonomic Consultant at The Hartford. 
Website: Business, Home & Car Insurance Quotes | The Hartford Insurance