Catenary engineers often work above chest level, and this has an effect on their back, upper arms and shoulders. You don’t really notice this when you are young, but as you get older you start to feel the effects that result from all these difficult body positions. Strukton wants to do something about that.
We aim to keep staff healthy right up to taking their pension and beyond. Awareness and supervision are vital, but innovations that improve working conditions are at least as important. The development of an integrated exoskeleton is such an innovation.
The exoskeleton eases the load of work in which you use your arms intensively, especially with work at chest height and higher. Your arms are supported in special ‘cups’, and as soon as you start to lift something above chest level, the exoskeleton’s springs are automatically activated.
We have therefore started practical trials with the use exoskeletons for work on the catenary. The trials soon showed that an exoskeleton is effective with overhead line work. Technicians feel their arms becoming weightless, and that makes lifting or using a spanner considerably easier.
Trials showed that an exoskeleton is effective with overhead line work. Technicians feel their arms becoming weightless, and that makes lifting or using a spanner considerably easier.
However, the practical trials also showed that with the existing exoskeleton, the downward movement generated too much resistance, with the result that it required additional energy in certain cases. It was also clear that wearing the exoskeleton along with fall protection was extremely difficult. And fall protection is absolutely essential when working at heights. However, the total overall weight of the two sets of personal protection equipment must not become so heavy that they once again cause problems for the technician.
Together with the Delft Robohouse, Strukton is developing an integrated exoskeleton with fall safety harness that is also integrated into the work clothing. The outlines of an integrated design of this kind are ready. We anticipate being able to trial an initial prototype in practice by the end of 2023.
The development of the exoskeleton is just one of many innovations at Strukton for improving working conditions. Over recent years, Strukton Catenary Europe has already introduced new power screwdrivers for avoiding torch cutting and chromium 6, lighter fall protection harnesses, Neotecs (innovative elevating platform for the tracks), hoisting yokes for keeping contact wires up and a special scissors hoisting platform on a wagon (HBW Light), by means of which working at height can be done more safely and ergonomically.