EPiC Series in Built Environment, Proceedings of 60th Annual Associated Schools of Construction International Conference

Influence of Active Back-Support Exoskeleton on Fall Hazard in Construction

Akinwale Okunola, Abiola Akanmu, Houtan Jebelli

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia


Exoskeletons, Fall hazards, Framing task, Peak plantar pressure, Pressure insoles


Active back-support exoskeleton has gained recognition as a potential solution to mitigate work- related musculoskeletal disorders. However, their utilization in the construction industry can introduce unintended consequences, such as increased fall hazards. This study examines the implications of using active back-support exoskeleton on fall risk during construction framing tasks, incorporating wearable pressure insoles for data collection. Two experimental conditions were established, one involving the simulation of construction framing tasks with exoskeleton and the other without exoskeleton. These tasks encompassed six subtasks: measuring, assembly, nailing, lifting, moving, and installation. Foot plantar pressure distribution was recorded across various spatial foot regions, including the arch, toe, metatarsal, and heel. Statistical analysis, employing a paired t-test on peak plantar pressure data, revealed that the use of active back-support exoskeleton significantly increased fall risks in at least one of the foot regions for all subtasks, except for the assembly subtask. These findings provide valuable insights for construction stakeholders when making decisions regarding the adoption of active back-support exoskeleton in the industry. Moreover, they inform exoskeleton manufacturers of the need to develop adaptive and customized exoskeleton solutions tailored to the unique demands of construction sites.

Moticon's Summary

This study explores the impact of active back-support exoskeletons (aBSE) on fall hazards in construction, focusing on carpentry tasks. Exoskeletons, while beneficial for reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), may still subject construction workers to increased fall risks due to repetitive abnormal postures or working on uneven surfaces. Therefore this study aimed to assess fall risk when using aBSEs based on increased peak plantar pressure. Sixteen participants performed framing tasks with and without aBSE, using pressure insoles to measure plantar pressure. The study found significant increases in peak plantar pressure with aBSE across most tasks, indicating a higher fall risk. Despite its benefits, the study highlights the need for adaptive exoskeleton designs to mitigate fall hazards in construction.

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