Meat processing sector trials 'wearable' technology to reduce injuries

  • 11/11/2019
 The exoskeleton technology was developed in the United States by Suit-X.
The exoskeleton technology was developed in the United States by Suit-X. Photo credit: Supplied/Suit-X

New wearable technology designed to reduce the risk of injury is being trialled by New Zealand's meat processing sector.

The Suit-X Exoskeleton is a spring-loaded, non-mechanical device worn by workers to provide strength and support for mechanical and repetitive tasks. 

The suits cut the risk of injury and increase productivity, especially during periods of sustained bending and overhead reaching.

Developed in the United States by Suit-X, the Exoskeleton technology was recently demonstrated at a series of workshops across the country by the Australian-based company Biosymm, supported by the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and WorkSafe New Zealand.

Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, Tim Ritchie, said investing in technology was playing a pivotal role in the sector's efforts to improve its health and safety performance.

Jim Curran of Alliance Group's Lorneville Plant near Invercargill tries out the exoskeleton.
Jim Curran of Alliance Group's Lorneville Plant near Invercargill tries out the exoskeleton. Photo credit: Supplied

"We have significantly reduced the injury rates over time, with the number of ACC injury claims more than halving since 2004," he said.

"However, we are committed to lifting our performance further by exploring new technologies to remove or reduce risk."

The MIA and WorkSafe New Zealand signed a Partnership Agreement in April 2018 in an effort to reduce worker injuries. 

"We are committed to sharing intelligence on critical harm and injury trends and issues, facilitating industry-good research to reduce injuries and illness, assisting in worker involvement, and supporting health and safety training."

WorkSafe New Zealand engagement lead Julie-Ann Mail said 487 workers in the meat processing industry had more than a week away from work due to body stressing injuries in 2018.

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