Picture it: Sicily, 1912.– Sophia Petrillo
But seriously, let’s say you’re a factory worker in the 1910s and Henry Ford’s Model T is decreasing in price every year as he perfects the assembly line in the automotive industry.
You’re an unskilled worker and your entire job consists of a simple task that you repeat over and over again…for hours. The job shouldn’t be a lot of work, but it is. After a few weeks, you start to feel some soreness in your shoulders. It is only once in a while at first, but soon you’re in pain at the end of every work shift. Your shifts feel longer, and the tasks are increasingly harder to do. You start making mistakes, and eventually, you’re Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times”.
My job is to make work easier. While we have come a long way since the Fordism of the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, there is still much to be done about worker safety. In 2017, there were about 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector, and approximately one-third of these resulted in workers days away from work. In the manufacturing industry, a large percentage of these cases was because of overexertion and repetitive stress.
My research focus is on worker safety, which includes finding ways to reduce loads and creating safe and efficient work environments. My dissertation research focuses on passive arm-supporting exoskeletons and how they affect work task performance and safety.