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Kinetic back brace could prevent workplace injuries

Goods from factories and farms pass through the hands of warehouse workers everyday, resulting in the repeated lifting and shifting around of boxes and other objects. Tennessee employees might be surprised that, according to 2013 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these activities caused more than 100,000 injuries in workplaces across the country. This figure is what a startup company aims to change. It has created a back brace that pairs with a wristband to detect when wearers are lifting objects and which muscles they are using to do so. The wearable device provides users with real-time feedback on whether or not they performed the lift safely. The company co-founder says that it could improve workers' awareness of how they are lifting boxes and objects so that they suffer fewer injuries on the job.

Additionally, the device provides managers with feedback on which employees need training in safe moving practices. It could also allow managers to determine whether changes are needed in the work environment or procedures. Many workers have to lift boxes from the floor and onto high shelves. This puts a lot of strain on the employees' shoulders, so it is recommended that employers provide lifting devices or steps to raise the boxes up to the workers' hips.

The company is starting with the manufacturing and warehouse industries so that it can easily collect lifting data to tailor the device's algorithms. However, it aims to expand to other industries, including health care. Nurses suffer about three times the number of back injuries as workers in the construction industry, and some of these injuries occur because nurses have to lift patients.

When an employee suffers a workplace injury, workers' compensation benefits may be available to pay for related medical bills and lost wages. An attorney can provide guidance and assistance with the process of filing a claim and in subsequent hearings should the claim be disputed or denied.

Source: Wired, "The Internet of Anything: This Wearable Could Keep You From Throwing Out Your Back", Klint Finley, Feb. 23, 2015

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