Motion analysis as a service to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in forestry

University essay from KTH/Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM)

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis was to investigate how motion analysis can be used as service to reduce the rate of upper-body musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in forestry, and propose a design based on the identified requirements. The project was carried out in collaboration with a Power Tools and Accessories Manufacturer (PTAM). Work-related upper-limb musculoskeletal disorders cost the European Union about 0.5-2% of its Gross Domestic Product yearly, cause immeasurable human suffering, and strain societal resources, not to mention the effect on the finances of the firm employing the afflicted individual. Forestry is the most prolific industry in terms musculoskeletal disorders, with a prevalence rate of circa 6 recorded MSDs per 100 workers and year. MSDs can be prevented, if individuals are aware of the risk. However, the traditional ways of creating awareness are clearly not working, considering the high rates of MSDs. Self-tracking technologies are therefore proposed as a new, more effective, way of increasing risk awareness among forestry workers. By increasing awareness, exposure and subsequent risk can be reduced. This thesis was initiated by a literature study, user observations and an interview study at PTAM, followed by a technical evaluation and synthesis of the ergonomic parameters. Early concepts were developed, tested with users, and reworked according to their feedback. Some relevant ethical dimensions of this innovation were also considered as the technology has great potential for both positive and negative influence, which can have profound effects on the users and affect their willingness to engage in self-tracking. The proposed solution is called the Ergonomic Risk Assessment service (ERA). The ERA is a conceptual service that uses motion analysis to assess the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders caused by hazardous working postures. The ERA is composed of two parts: the tracking unit and the data analysis. The tracking unit is a sports shirt with integrated Bluetooth and IMU sensors which gathers motion data that is used in the automated analysis to assess exposure and risk. The assessments are communicated back to the user via real-time indications and long-term overviews. As a service, the ERA has potential to generate considerate value and have a significant impact on the social and economic sustainability for nations, firms, and individuals, if designed and implemented in an ethically responsible manner.

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