Artificial intelligence at the service of ergonomics

You can not stop progress. This is what many observers have said to themselves upon discovering this innovation. The Travelers Companies insurance company, a leading player in travel coverage in the United States, becomes the first insurer to offer its professional clients virtual ergonomic assessments carried out using artificial intelligence. All this in order to fight more effectively against MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders).

As a reminder, the name MSDs includes all the diseases located in or around the joints: wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine or knees. Symptoms almost systematically caused by repetitive and inconvenient gestures made in the course of professional activity. With teleworking (and the lack of supervision) work-related disorders have literally exploded around the world. Consequently, companies are increasing their prevention offers, such as The Travelers Companies here. So how does it work ?

An ergonomic study

The ergonomic study offer therefore targets transport professionals. A population at risk, because often having to keep a fixed posture for hours. We think of truck or train drivers. The ergonomic study is carried out in 2 stages:

  • A video of a worker performing a task is made with a smartphone. Evaluators then identify movements and postures that could cause injury.
  • The software then quantifies the risk and produces a report. This helps the ergonomics professional to subsequently develop solutions adapted to the risks incurred.

Why is AI used in an ergonomic study?

As a first step, to increase the general level of the fight against MSDs. Using AI, the insurer is able to provide reports and ergonomics advice remotely. A use of new technologies which here paradoxically brings people together. Because it allows more personalized and therefore better monitoring. In addition, the use of software allows no risk to pass, unlike the human eye.

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The problem assessment part is also shortened, leaving more time for the experts to take care of the corrections. “By using AI, we can reduce the time spent assessing problems from days to hours,” even says Marty Henry, senior vice president of risk control at the group.

Ergonomics are booming

It is undeniable that ergonomics are experiencing a golden age, both in popularity and in terms of technological advances. This is explained by 2 recent phenomena. First, the last few months have seen an explosion in the world of consultations for MSDs. This is what industry professionals have reported, especially in the United States. The confinement protected populations against COVID but made them more exposed to MSDs. Second explanation, business leaders, in particular thanks to increasingly precise statistics, are now realizing more than yesterday the impact of MSDs on their turnover. In particular in terms of reduced productivity caused by deficits in energy, sleep and morale, even absenteeism and occupational diseases. It is therefore no coincidence that the initiative is brought by an insurer (organizations absorbing the cost of occupational diseases) in the direction of the transport world, one of the most affected by these phenomena.

The progress of ergonomic analyzes thanks to artificial intelligence is dazzling. But it remains for the moment confined to the professions most at risk. One can nevertheless reasonably think that technology will democratize. So that office workers, a population that is also exposed to MSDs, but to a lesser degree, can also say goodbye to them.