Two WA companies are using 3D motion tracking technology to mitigate Australia’s number one WHS issue: work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD).
Workplace health and safety company Epigroup has partnered with human movement experts Principia Technology to create Alter Ergo, an Australian-first solution that combines motion capture technology, a risk scoring system and a data management system to understand the physical, mental and environmental demands of a task.
Safe Work Australia recently reported that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are Australia’s leading workplace health and safety issue. Every year they cost our economy billions dollars (over 24 billion in 2013-14), and according AIHW they impact millions of people and their families (6.9 million in 2017).
“Long hours and tired bodies easily lead to workplace injuries,” says Epigroup Co-Director Jake Cole. “Australia’s ageing population and current labour shortage is only going to add fuel to this fire.”
Epigroup and Principia Technology use an Xsens suit to analyse the risk of employees sustaining a musculoskeletal injury in their role. This suit places multiple motion sensors on the body, which generates a 3D avatar on screen. This avatar mirrors the wearer’s movements in real time and captures data on multiple areas of the body.
“The inertial sensors on the Xsens suit give us access to the precise measurement of human motion, allowing us to identify and analyse postures that are difficult, sustained and that have the highest loads,” says Principia Technology Founder Dr Jason Konrath.
Epigroup takes the data captured by the motion sensors to create injury prevention plans and detailed job dictionaries. A job dictionary is a document that outlines the physical, mental and environmental demands of a task, traditionally using photographs and descriptions.
This traditional method may suffer from inherent limitations of 2D motion capture. Three-dimensional motion capture techniques can greatly improve these limitations, providing enriched biomechanical data and greater reliability to the analysis (Schepers et al., 2018).
If an employer wants to delve deeper into how personal factors can influence injuries, this physical data can be assessed against individual factors, including age, fitness and functional movement capabilities.
This data is input by employees and is stored in a customised cloud-based system, which in the past has been used globally to track the performance of elite sporting athletes.
“Our data management system consolidates worker performance, wellness, and injury-related data. By consolidating often-siloed data, we empower companies to make informed decisions that save time and optimize results,” says Konrath.
Employers can use this software to monitor and improve the health and wellness of their employees by determining:
- the optimal hours of rest and impact on cognitive awareness,
- full descriptive statistics of the posture and movement data,
- individual readiness to perform, and
- operational risk scores.
“Alter Ergo was created for industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction and health care, where lifting heavy loads, awkward postures and repetitive movements and are all in a day’s work,” says Cole.
Epigroup’s WHS expertise combined with Principia Technology’s musculoskeletal disorder knowledge and technology allows the two companies to produce a new generation of job dictionaries, and deepen industry knowledge of WMSD.
“Epigroup is constantly working to ensure we are at the forefront of creating healthier and safer workplaces. The partnership with Principia allows us to access decades of data and research, and use pioneering technology to understand how to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders across the occupational sector,” says Cole.
Principia Technology was founded by Dr Jason Konrath to use science and technology to improve human movement. The company specialises in motion capture technologies that allow biomechanical assessments in any environment. All without the need for a laboratory.
“The partnership with Epigroup has been a natural synergy. Prior to launching Principia, I had spent many years all over the world developing the most advanced methods of human motion measurement, as well as understanding how loading influences the musculoskeletal system at the tissue level. With a strong background in both high-performance sport and clinical biomechanics, it was clear that a lot could be brought into the occupational sector. The venture we are undertaking with Epigroup has given us an enhanced understanding of the workplace health and safety sector, allowing employee’s health and wellness to thrive,” says Konrath.