New Wearable Device Aims to Reduce Workplace Back Injuries

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Warehouse workers are responsible for making sure everything from food to iPads is properly transported to our hands. Yet the work of the average warehouse employee is some of the most dangerous work one can do.

The warehousing industry is notorious for the prevalent rates of injury and illness among its workers. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as many as 15,000 injuries and illnesses take place every year in warehouses across the country.

To help combat against this grim statistic, New York City-based start-up Kinetic has recently introduced a wearable device that could help warehouses prevent against back injury and strain among their personnel.

According to Fierce Mobile IT, the wearable consists of both a wristband and a back component that wraps around a worker's waist -- a sort of high-tech back brace.
According to Fierce Mobile IT, the wearable consists of both a wristband and a back component that wraps around a worker’s waist — a sort of high-tech back brace.

According to Fierce Mobile IT, the wearable consists of both a wristband and a back component that wraps around a worker’s waist — a sort of high-tech back brace. The two components communicate with one another to relay data about the worker’s movements, evaluating whether or not he or she is lifting objects properly. If the worker isn’t lifting an item properly, the wristband will light up to alert the worker of an injury risk.

Additionally, managers can look at data collected from every worker who wears these devices, pinpointing employees who are at highest risk of injury and implementing safety programs to help prevent these injuries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2013, more than 100,000 workplace injuries across all industries stemmed from improper lifting. These injuries cost enterprises $15 billion.

Haytham Elhawary, founder of Kinetic, told Wired that the key to reducing these injuries is by making workers more aware of what their bodies are doing and how their actions affect their bodies.

“Most workers have been trained to lift in a particular way, but when you get busy you lift in the fastest way, and maybe forget your training,” Elhawary said. “But when [the wrist band] goes off, it can remind you about your technique.”

While Kinetic’s product is currently only useful to warehouses, construction companies and other businesses that deal with heavy merchandise, Elhawary said the company plans to eventually expand into fields like the healthcare sector, where there is a surprisingly high rate of back injury.

Kinetic’s device is ultimately the manifestation of Elhawary’s belief that these workers — whether they’re in a warehouse or a hospital — perform physical activities every day that put them on par with athletes.

“We want to provide these workers with some of the same sort of support that athletes have,” he said.

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