Innovative Safety Ergoskeleton for Material Handlers

Innovative Safety Ergoskeleton for Material Handlers

By Subrat Jain

With the motivation of curbing the persistent problem of injuries in the material handling industry, two graduates from the Rochester Institute of Technology founded a start-up company that develops innovative safety vests. Their product, the V22 Ergoskeleton, is a revolutionary product for material handlers and haulers. This patented device is designed for anybody lifting materials regularly and makes handling materials easier and safer.

The V22 Ergoskeleton is basically worn like a backpack with various adjustments available for different heights and has cables with a grip at one end (called hand clutches) that easily fit in between fingers. The device distributes the lifting load and prevents the person from having wrong posture. This Strong Arm Ergoskeleton only puts support on the body when a lifting force occurs.

Every year material handlers, haulers and delivering agents suffer a multitude of injuries like strains, muscle tears, sprains and spinal injuries. Subsequently, the major reason why there is still no solution tackling this problem is the fast-paced industry and the competition in keeping it low cost. The V22 is an innovative solution as it is lightweight with no bodily constraints present, efficient and cost effective.

The design of the V22 focuses on safe lifting techniques. The device takes into consideration the NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) lifting equation. The NIOSH lifting equation is a tool used by occupational health and safety professionals to assess the manual material handling risks associated with lifting and providing safe practice guidelines.

When the load is in contact with the clutch worn on the hands, the fly-trigger on the clutch is activated which then activates the vest for lifting. This means that it locks the cord at its length and the vest transfers the load to the lower body. When the trigger is not in contact, the system gives full motion flexibility. The Ergoskeleton then makes use of 3 lifting technologies at 3 different stages of lifting:

  1. Load shifting technology – Load from the clutch grip is shifted away from the hand into the cords and finally to the stronger part of the body i.e. the lower body.
  2. Spine positioning technology – During the lift, pressure is placed on the core support band, transmission column and posture pads (together forming the back of the apparatus) which keeps the spine in proper posture.
  3. Impact suspension technology – Disperses the load on the top of the shoulders to reduce the impact of the load while carrying.

To keep the posture right, the posture pods provide sensory feedback (non-electronic) in the form of an increased support (pressure) over the support locations. The pressure increases as the user goes into the danger zone of the lifting position.

The power control function directs 80-90% of the load force to the stronger muscles in the legs and buttocks and takes away 50-75% of the force from the weaker muscles and tissues in the hands, arms and lower back, making lifting easier.

The biggest challenge in developing a product for this requirement was the concern of adoption by workers. Workers need a device that is easy to wear, lightweight and needs no additional user input as speed and effort is imperative. Additionally, the device should encourage the user to keep the right posture.

Strong Arm Technologies won the Rochester and New York State Business Plan competition for its innovative new product, the Strong Arm Ergoskeleton. Strong Arm also won Best Pitch from The Bright Forum in Buffalo, Core 77 2012 Design Award and Spark awards in 2013 for the V22. Strong Arm Technologies also won Best Pitch and Best Technological Innovation from the NCIIA in California.


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