Despite notable advancements in construction safety, workers remain at high risk for musculoskeletal injuries such as back and shoulder pain. As we seek further solutions, exoskeleton technology stands out as a promising new alternative in injury prevention. Researchers in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering’s Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics (OEB) Lab are starting to test the effectiveness of exoskeletons in real-world construction applications with hopes of improving the quality of life for construction and other workers. 

“Even with the advances in safety technology and the rise in automation, jobs such as construction work require a human on site because the task is too nuanced or complex. Unfortunately, a lot of these workers still get hurt, or have a hard time moving normally after they get home,” said Ph.D. candidate Wally Morris. “We’re trying to determine if exoskeletons can reduce ergonomic risks while workers do the types of strenuous activity that are common in construction.” 

While lab studies show promising results, the researchers are collecting real-time feedback from workers before and after doing their usual work to determine if the exoskeletons could have a meaningful impact on worker health and well-being. 

“Such field testing is critical, both because real construction work is far more complex than what we can test in our labs, and because there is still very limited evidence about the effects of this rapidly emerging technology in real-world settings,” said H.G. Prillaman Professor Maury Nussbaum.

The OEB Lab is currently seeking participants for this study! Volunteers will be asked to wear one or two exoskeletons for up to an hour each while doing their usual work, and the researchers will ask them to complete brief interviews to record their reactions. The researchers are looking to include a wide variety of construction workers, aged 18-65, with at least one-year of experience and no current or recent injuries, and who work in different trades, such as: 

  • Laborers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Masons
  • Roofer
  • Floorers
  • Sheet metal workers

Compensation for participants is provided, at $50/hour. 

For more information, please contact Mr. Wally Morris at or via phone at (205) 516-1439.