Last reviewed 15 September 2020

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published a new report on occupational exoskeletons and how the wearing of robotic devices could potentially prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in future.

Occupational exoskeletons are wearable assistive devices that can reduce physical strain at work. They can offer a solution where other technical, organisational or ergonomic design measures are not enough.

To date, the use of occupational exoskeletons remains limited. The report says that human-centred design and biomechanical risk assessment will be key to ensuring the acceptance and wider uptake of these devices, and their effectiveness in MSD prevention.

The new report by EU-OSHA explores the findings of a recent project looking at exoskeletons and how to maximise their potential to reduce work-related MSDs.

The report also predicts that the growing interest in exoskeletons indicates that wearable robotic devices will possibly represent one of the next changes in many occupational scenarios, eg in economic sectors such as automotive and aerospace manufacturing, logistics, construction and agriculture.

However, the report also highlights barriers to acceptance and utilisation of wearable technology. It notes that technological devices must not only be safe, comfortable, useful and usable but, just as importantly, must be desirable to the end user.

For this reason, the report advises a firmly user-centred design approach, involving the users, ie the companies and workers, directly in the exoskeleton design process.

The report can be accessed via the Agency’s website.