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Effects of industrial back-support exoskeletons on body loading and user experience: an updated systematic review

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-11, 14:21 authored by Tjaša Kermavnar, Aijse W. de Vries, Michiel P. de Looze, LEONARD O'SULLIVANLEONARD O'SULLIVAN
This study is an updated systematic review of papers published in the last five years on industrial back-support exoskeletons. The research questions were aimed at addressing the recent findings regarding objective (e.g. body loading, user performance) and subjective evaluations (e.g. user satisfaction), potential side effects, and methodological aspects of usability testing. Thirteen studies of active and twenty of passive exoskeletons were identified. The exoskeletons were tested during lifting and bending tasks, predominantly in laboratory settings and among healthy young men. In general, decreases in participants' back-muscle activity, peak L5/S1 moments and spinal compression forces were reported. User endurance during lifting and static bending improved, but performance declined during tasks that required increased agility. The overall user satisfaction was moderate. Some side effects were observed, including increased abdominal/lower-limb muscle activity and changes in joint angles. A need was identified for further field studies, involving industrial workers, and reflecting actual work situations. Practitioner Summary: Due to increased research activity in the field, a systematic review was performed of recent studies on industrial back-support exoskeletons, addressing objective and subjective evaluations, side effects, and methodological aspects of usability testing. The results indicate efficiency of exoskeletons in back-load reduction, and a need for further studies in real work situations.


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Ergonomics; 64 (6), pp. 685-711


Taylor and Francis



Other Funding information

SFI, European Union (EU), ERDF


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in Ergonomics 2020 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:



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