Exoskeletons at work: opportunities, suggestions for implementation and future research needs

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Lucia BottiAdriano Paolo BacchettaManiva OlivaRiccardo Melloni

Abstract: Exoskeletons are wearable devices that use mechanical interaction with the body to augment, assist, and enhance physical activity, motion, and body posture. In the last decades, these devices have been extensively studied and applied in motor rehabilitation. More recently, both industrial and academic researchers have been working to explore the effectiveness of exoskeletons in supporting human upper and lower extremities during manual material handling to eliminate or reduce the risk of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs). If on the one hand, the effects for the prevention of WMSDs seem evident, on the other hand, some studies are carefully evaluating the overall impact of exoskeletons on the health and safety of workers. Still, there is limited evidence on the long-term effects of these devices. Hence, more researches are necessary to understand the benefits and the potential opportunities arising from the introduction of exoskeletons in the workplace, as well as the potential limitations and risks that may arise for workers. This paper aims to address these challenges, providing the results of a structured analysis of the scientific literature on occupational exoskeletons. A conceptual framework describes the benefits and the potential limitations of occupational exoskeletons, supporting the safe and effective selection and adoption of these devices in workplaces. The findings in this paper support academic, industrial practitioners, and researchers to understand the opportunities behind the use of exoskeletons, the future research needs, and to predict the benefits and the potential limitations of their implementation in workplaces.

Keywords: exoskeletons, occupational health and safety, human factors, ergonomics, industrial safety.

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003510

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