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Haller Group relies on exoskeletons for better occupational health on construction sites

The Haller Group, the 4th generation family-run company in Linz, is focusing on improving occupational health on construction sites. In collaboration with the Zukunftsagentur Bau (ZAB) and the LIT Robopsychology LAB at the JKU, exoskeletons are currently being tested for use on construction sites.

Since October 2023, the construction companies within the Linz HALLER GROUP have been testing exoskeletons on construction sites in cooperation with the ZAB Zukunftsagentur Bau and the LIT Robopsychology LAB of the JKU Linz.

Physical relief for better occupational health
The current test phase is primarily concerned with the effectiveness and suitability of exoskeletons for everyday use in construction work. In the medium and long term, the aim is to prevent work-related musculoskeletal and spinal disorders. Shoulder and back pain are among the most common complaints of construction workers. In Austria, around a fifth of all sick days in this sector are due to musculoskeletal disorders. In the test run at HALLER BAU together with the ZAB and the LIT Robopsychology LAB of the JKU, suitable activities on the construction site are now being determined and corresponding measurements and surveys are being carried out among the test persons. The aim is to test the effectiveness of the physical relief provided by the use of the exoskeletons, as well as the acceptance of the employees.

Test with two types of exoskeletons
Two different exoskeletons selected by the ZAB experts are tested. One shoulder-supporting device and one for the back. The "Ottobock Shoulder" shoulder device takes some of the load off the arms when they are raised, making overhead work easier in particular. The weight of the raised arms is transferred to the hips using a mechanical pulley system. This is noticeably easier on the muscles and joints in the shoulder area and overhead activities can be carried out much more comfortably. The Ottobock Shoulder is a passive exoskeleton that requires no energy supply and is therefore particularly lightweight. It is worn close to the body, similar to a backpack, and allows full freedom of movement. The design of the Ottobock Shoulder is based on natural human movements. In addition to extensive practical tests such as the one at HALLER, the Ottobock Shoulder exoskeleton is also the subject of various studies in the field of occupational health. The "Auxio LiftSuit 2.0" back device deflects the forces from the intervertebral discs when lifting and also ensures a correct lifting position. The LiftSuit is a lightweight textile exoskeleton weighing less than a kilo that supports the back and hip muscles when lifting objects or working in a forward-leaning position. It was developed to reduce workload, muscle fatigue and exhaustion. Using pulleys, the forces are redirected to the thigh muscles or the hips and thus, for example, 10 - 15 kg of load is diverted away from the intervertebral discs when lifting. The initiative to test the exoskeletons came from HALLER BAU, with the devices being provided by the ZAB and the suitability for everyday use being evaluated by the JKU using questionnaires and personal interviews.

Very positive reaction from employees
Based on the initial tests, the exoskeletons have been very well received by employees and can be easily integrated into everyday working life. A noticeable difference in physical strain and a noticeable reduction in workload is perceived by the employees.

Building a healthy future together
"The health of our employees is our top priority. Every day, they deliver top performance under considerable physical strain. The exoskeletons allow us to minimize overload and fatigue, which in turn reduces the risk of accidents and injuries at work and leads to a reduction in sick leave. We are particularly keen to keep our employees in our company for as long as possible and, above all, as healthy as possible. If the test is positive, we will invest in the equipment and thus in significantly improved working conditions," explains Christina Haller, Managing Director of the HALLER GROUP.

Source: Wirtschaftszeit | Haller Group relies on exoskeletons for better occupational health on construction sites

Tom Illauer

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