Evaluation aspects of potential influences on human beings by wearing exoskeletal systems
Demonstration zum Stand der interdisziplinären Entwicklung der körpergetragenen Hebehilfe "Stuttgart Exo-Jacket"
The demographic change is a not to be underestimated factor on the labor market. For this reason the issues of occupational safety and health will become prioritized topics of labor market policy themes in Germany and Europe . The goal of ergonomics is to implement occupational health and safety and productivity in the workplace and to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (wMSD's). In the first instance ergonomic principles should be taken into consideration at the beginning of the value chain, in the development phase of a new product and production planning, so that no load reducing aids are required. However, existing nonergonomic workplaces with high loads on the workers cannot benefit from this approach and require a functional alternative. According to the §4 Working conditions act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz), hazards must always be eliminated or mitigated directly at the origin. Where this alone does not lead the goal, additional organizational and personal measures have to be taken in the order (1) Technical measures, (2) Organizational measures, (3) Personal measures (the ""TOP-principle""). Personal protective equipment like protective clothing, safety helmets or safety gloves is classified into the last level of the TOP-Principle (Personal measures). For this reason it is likely, that exoskeletons will fall into the same category, when they are deployed as an ergonomic aid for workers. There is a high variety on exoskeletal systems being developed for this purpose, but most of them are on an experimental stage and not ready to be used in practice . Thus there is a lack in empirical values in accordance with the long time effects on human wearers of exoskeletons in working environments. In its theoretical vision of a body worn worker support system, an exoskeleton can be defined as a wearable, external mechanical structure that enhances the power of the wearer, while the human operator is in charge of the position control, contextual perception and motion signal generation through the exoskeleton's artificial intelligence [2, 3]. Exoskeletons aim on reducing loads on workers in critical workflows and thus avoiding musculoskeletal disorders without hampering the workers . Next to technical issues, that need to be solved first , the high level of discomfort by wearing the exoskeleton is a big challenge to evoke the acceptance of workers, workers council and company doctors. Concerns and anxieties about unintentional negative side-effects coming up with wearing exoskeletons can only be reduced by a comprehensive knowledge and subsequent analysis of possible hazards. This article describes the challenge on this demand and reveals an approach to structure this extensive task. It describes the influence of loads on the human body, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (wMSD's) and exoskeletons and the relations between them.