Cyborg Alert: Can Ford’s New EksoVest Reduce Workplace Injuries?

Ford has just unveiled new exoskeleton technology to improve factory workplace conditions, cut down on job fatigue, and reduce injuries. The exoskeleton looks like something from a science-fiction movie, and is the latest example of tech that can enhance human performance.

EksoVest, Ford’s new wearable technology that elevates and supports an individual’s arms while performing strenuous overhead tasks, could revolutionize dozens of industries.

Roughly 35% of on-the-job injuries are caused by machine accidents each year and 14% of workplace fatalities are a result of machine failures and accidents. According to a press release, Ford believes a device like the EksoVest wouldn’t just improve workplace efficiency, it would also improve individual comfort, prevent chronic pain, and reduce serious workplace injuries.

“The health and safety of our membership has always been our highest priority,” said Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles. “With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities.”

Between 2005 and 2016, Ford saw an 83% decrease in the number of workplace incidents that resulted in days missed, job transfers, or work restrictions. The company now sees 1.55 incidents per 100 full-time employees across North America, which is an all-time low. As of 2014, about 88% of Americans reported owning a car, the second highest rate of car ownership in the world.

As one of the “Big 3” domestic automakers in the United States, Ford employs thousands of factory workers across the United States. As of January 2017, Ford employed a total of 85,000 U.S. employees, including many factory workers assembling Ford automobiles. As such, a technology like the EksoVest wouldn’t just keep workers safe, it would also lower overall labor costs through decreased occupational injuries in the automaker’s plants.

“Our goal has always been to keep the work environment safe and productive for the hardworking men and women we rely on across the globe,” added Bruce Hettle, Ford group Vice President of Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, in a company press release.

Improving efficiencies and cutting down on serious injuries are the main benefits of this innovative device, but workers are loving the effects EksoVests are having on their wellbeing at the end of the day.

“When I get home my back, next, and shoulders usually hurt,” said Paul Collins, a Ford assembly line worker in Michigan. “Since I started using the vest, Iā€™m not as sore, and I have more energy to play with my grandsons when I get home.”

This exoskeleton is just the latest example of the way wearable technology could change the ways we live and work. While wearable technologies have struggled in the past, the new EksoVest promises to deliver tangible benefits to factory workers the world over.

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