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Sun September 22 2019

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Utilities contractor trials exoskeleton tech

1 Mar Morrison Utility Services (MUS) is running an extensive programme of field trials of wearable technology to reduce the strain of manual handling.

Morrison Utility Services is trialling the EksoVest
Morrison Utility Services is trialling the EksoVest

MUS is trialling spring-loaded, upper body exoskeletons that elevate and support arms during manual, chest-high-to-overhead handling tasks.

A trial programme to explore the potential safety and productivity benefits of the EksoVest exoskeletons is being spearheaded by the company’s Yorkshire Water contract team.

They are being used for lifting and handling activities in the company’s Normanton stores depot and around hoppers used by site clearance support teams, as well as for supporting reinstatement and backfill teams loading and unloading rammers onto the sides of vehicles.

The EksoVest has been developed by US robotics firm Ekso Bionics and costs £5,650. It was previously trialled by Willmott Dixon last year on the construction of the Cardiff West Community High School. [See our previous report here.]

Morrison Utility Services director John Edwards said: “ Augmenting human capability offers scope for significant safety, health and wellbeing benefits for our people working in the field, some of whom are involved in physically demanding, repetitive activities over extended periods of time. The benefits of this wearable technology will include reduced tiredness, a reduction in strain-related injuries and the ability for our people to work for longer periods without any detriment to their wellbeing.

“The use of exoskeletons could also help our sector tackle the ongoing skills shortage, as some members of the workforce could find that the use of such innovative wearable technology may help them carry out the more physical aspects of a job, thus opening up otherwise lost opportunities.”

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