Could Smartphone Tech Be The Answer To Repetitive Motion Injuries?

Posted: Mar 3 2018, 7:34am CST | by , in Mobile Phones


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Could Smartphone Tech be the Answer to Repetitive Motion Injuries?

Smartphone Technology Could Reduce Workplace Injuries

Smartphones often get blamed for accidents and injuries, both inside and outside of the workplace. They’re viewed as distractions and often get banned altogether. But as a growing body of research suggests, smartphone technology could actually be the solution to preventing repetitive motion injuries in workplace settings like factories and assembly lines.

Repetitive Motion Injuries: A Real Problem

For those who have never been affected, the problem of repetitive motion injuries in the workplace may not be obvious. But if you study the data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, it becomes painfully obvious there’s an issue here. Just consider the following:

  • Each year, 2 out of every 3 recorded occupational injuries are the result of repeat trauma or movement, typically to the shoulder, wrist, and/or elbow.
  • The incident rate for repetitive motion injuries is 3.0 per 10,000 workers.
  • Repetitive motion injuries take an average of 23 days to fully recover, which is 14 days longer than the average for all other injuries.
  • Repetitive motion injuries are believed to cost employers a collective $80 billion per year.
  • Of the 260,000 carpal tunnel syndrome release surgeries performed annually, 47 percent are considered work-related.

Repetitive motion injuries are clearly an issue. Not only do they lead to workers’ compensation claims, but they can also hurt a company’s efficiency and profitability. The sooner viable solutions are discovered and implemented, the faster this issue can be remediated.

Smartphones to Combat Injury

As a professor of industrial systems of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rob Radwin is just the guy to address the problem of repetitive motion injuries in the workplace. He’s been studying the issue for more than two decades and believes that we finally have the technology to create a solution that is not only effective, but also economically viable.

His secret weapon? The smartphone.

For the last couple of years, Radwin and his students have been collaborating with another professor, Yu Hen Hu, to develop computer vision algorithms that precisely calculate hand activity level. Throughout this process, they received a number of exploratory grants and significant levels of funding from key organizations.

In September 2016, Radwin received three-year funding of $1.4 million from the NIOSH Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this new grant, Radwin and his colleagues have been able to collect video from a number of institutions and refine their technology – which will hopefully use smartphone technology to house apps that comfortably gather data and deliver real-time reports.

“We can program phones to measure motions and quantify them in a way that is not only more accurate than the current method, but also automatic and more objective and reliable,” Radwin says. “It's not just for big corporations using ergonomics to cut costs—it would allow medium-sized and small businesses to access this technology as well.”

For years, the approach to repetitive motion injuries in the workplace has largely been reactive. The goal for Radwin and his colleagues is to prevent them before they happen. The modern smartphone, equipped with fast processing, cost-effective hardware, and ubiquitous access, looks like it could be the solution.

Technology: Not Always the Problem

It seems like people only want to talk about the problematic nature of technology as it relates to public health and safety, but technology can also be the solution. In the case of repetitive motion injuries in warehouses, factories, and industrial settings, smartphones could actually add tangible value. If nothing else, it’s something to keep an eye on as research continues to advance in the area of workplace injury prevention.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/68" rel="author">Larry Alton</a>
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.




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