TitleForestry professionals’ perspectives on exoskeletons (wearable assistive technology) to improve worker safety and health
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsKim, JH, Chung, W
JournalInternational Journal of Forest Engineering
Pagination1 - 10
Date Published09/2023

Exoskeletons have been recognized as an effective ergonomic control to reduce physical risk factors, including forceful exertions and awkward postures that are common in manual timber felling. However, no evidence exists to date that offers industry perspectives, important facilitators, and potential barriers for adopting exoskeletons in the forest industry. Therefore, this study aimed to quantify biomechanical stress of timber fellers and assess forestry professionals’ awareness and acceptance of exoskeletons. We measured working postures using wearable sensors during manual timber felling [N = 10] to suggest appropriate and beneficial exoskeleton types for timber fellers. We examined forestry professionals’ awareness and acceptance of exoskeletons and identified perceived barriers and risks using a questionnaire [N = 22]. This study revealed that the forestry professionals expressed considerable interest and acceptance level in exoskeleton use. The important factors influencing the adoption of exoskeletons identified in this study were weight, comfort, simplicity/portability, practicality (usable and easy to use), and easy maintenance. The results also identified timber felling, cutting/sawing, and mechanic work as potential forestry tasks that may benefit most from the exoskeleton use. The wearable sensor data showed that manual timber felling posed substantial torso bending and upper-arm elevation. Given the awkward posture and high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in the back and upper-arms, this study suggests that back-support and upper-limb support exoskeletons may be suitable to the forest industry. This study provides important insights for future studies investigating the feasibility, readiness, and effectiveness of exoskeletons to be applied to the forest industry.

Short TitleInternational Journal of Forest Engineering