Back injuries are painful, common, and costly. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than one million workplace back injuries a year, making them the #1 workplace safety problem. Three out of four back injuries happen when a worker is lifting. According to KINETIC, a developer of smart devices intended to reduce back injury during lifting, the direct and indirect costs of lifting injuries exceeds $70 billion annually.
KINETIC has several versions of its devices that can detect improper lifting technique and alert the worker. They also report proper and faulty lifting behavior to employer data management systems so companies can provide employee incentives good lifting and discover who needs further training. The KINETIC design is based on the Intel Edison Compute Module with an Atom processor, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an Intel Quark microprocessor. The form factors of the devices include a unit that slips into a pocket on the back of a lifting belt, another that clips to a regular belt, and a device worn on the wrist. In a two week pilot field study at Crane Worldwide Logistics in Houston, Texas, workers were taught proper lifting techniques and then equipped with KINETIC sensor units. Over the course of the study, the average number of high risk lifts by the workers in the study decreased by 84%. Going forward, KINETIC is further developing software to train workers and monitor lifting performance.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a medical trial health authority, approximately 80% of all adults experience back pain at some time in their lives. Lessening back injuries with preventive training and wearable technology assistance is on track to reduce or minimize a significant portion of those injuries.