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Emerging technology meant to reduce workplace injuries

Minnesota workers in the manufacturing sector put a lot of physical efforts into their jobs. Safety experts know that simple changes in workflow procedures could reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by repetitive motions, but they have struggled to find easy and reliable methods for identifying risks. An engineering professor funded by grants from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institutes of Health is developing a system to collect video of hand activity during work tasks.

Algorithms designed to measure hand activity then analyze the data and assign values to factors such as speed, exertion, grasps and number of repetitions. The program then applies epidemiological information about injuries and their associated causes to produce risk assessments about a work environment.

Tasks identified with a high potential for worker injury might be corrected often by small changes in a work system. For example, slowing down a conveyor belt or reducing the distance between objects could prevent strain. The professor plans to implement the technology as a smartphone app, which would be easy and affordable for employers to use.

Although advances in risk assessment might help people avoid some injuries in the future, a person currently hurt on the job will need to apply for medical benefits through the employer's workers' compensation insurance. To collect these benefits for workplace injuries, a person needs to report the accident or injury and fill out a claim. If proving that an injury resulted from repetitive motions at work is difficult for someone, then an attorney might provide help documenting the source of injury. An attorney could strive to communicate this information clearly to the insurance company and request compensation for medical care, rehabilitation and wages lost during recovery.

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