ITcon Vol. 26, pg. 936-952, http://www.itcon.org/2021/50

Assessment of a passive wearable robot for reducing low back disorders during rebar work

DOI:10.36680/j.itcon.2021.050
submitted:October 2021
revised:October 2021
published:November 2021
editor(s):Nashwan Dawood, Farzad Pour Rahimian
authors:Nihar J. Gonsalves, Masters Student
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, United States
gonsnihar@vt.edu

Omobolanle R. Ogunseiju, Ph.D. candidate
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, United States
omobolanle@vt.edu

Abiola A. Akanmu, Ph.D
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, United States
abiola@vt.edu

Chukwuma A. Nnaji, Ph.D
The University of Alabama, Alabama, United States
cnnaji@eng.ua.edu
summary:Low back disorder continues to be prevalent amongst construction workers, especially the rebar workers who are often engaged in repetitive stooping postures. Wearable robots, exoskeletons, are recent ergonomic interventions currently explored in the construction industry that have potentials of reducing the risks of low back pain by augmenting users’ body parts and reducing demands on the back. This paper presents the assessment of a commercially available passive wearable robot, BackX, designed for reducing low back disorder amongst rebar workers. The study evaluated the exoskeleton in terms of task performance and physiological conditions. Outcome measures such as completion time were employed to evaluate the effect of the exoskeleton on task performance, while activations of Erector Spinae and Latissimus Dorsi muscles, and perceived discomfort across body parts were employed to assess the physiological effects of the exoskeleton. The results indicated mixed effects of the exoskeleton on muscle activations. Although the results revealed that the exoskeleton can reduce muscle activations across the Latissimus Dorsi, mixed effects were observed for the Erector Spinae especially during the forward bending tasks. The exoskeleton reduced completion time by 50% during the rebar tasks. There was also a 100% reduction in perceived discomfort on the back, but discomfort was tripled at the chest region when the exoskeleton was worn. This study reveals the potentials of the exoskeleton for reducing low back disorder and improving productivity amongst the rebar workers. However, the unintended consequences such as increased discomfort at the chest region and activations of the muscles highlight the need for improving existing exoskeleton designs for construction work.
keywords:Low back disorders, Wearable robots, Exoskeleton, Rebar work, Electromyography, Muscle activity, Discomfort
full text: (PDF file, 0.451 MB)
citation:Gonsalves N J, Ogunseiju O R, Akanmu A A, Nnaji C A (2021). Assessment of a passive wearable robot for reducing low back disorders during rebar work, ITcon Vol. 26, Special issue Construction 4.0: Established and Emerging Digital Technologies within the Construction Industry (ConVR 2020), pg. 936-952, https://doi.org/10.36680/j.itcon.2021.050