Challenges and Opportunities Associated with the Adoption of Wearable Technologies in the Workplace
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Industrial and Systems Engineering
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Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are painful and costly health conditions that affect workers in many industries, especially manufacturing. Wearable sensors such as inertial measurement units (IMUs) are direct measurement tools that have been applied to quantify exposure to risk factors that contribute to the development of MSDs. Although IMUs and other wearable sensors have been shown to provide accurate, reliable, and objective biomechanical exposure data, concerns associated with using wearables in working environments have been reported among occupational safety and health professionals. The broad objective of this dissertation was to study concerns related to the adoption of wearable sensors among industrial workers in an effort to improve occupational exposure assessment practices and, ultimately, prevent the development of work-related MSDs. One specific aim of this dissertation developed to address this objective included identifying barriers to the adoption of wearable sensors and proposing a behavioral intention model for wearable sensor use in occupational safety and health applications. Another aim was to characterize industrial worker ratings of physical discomfort, distraction and burden after using wearable sensors for multiple work shifts and assess the relationship among those perceptions and other demographic and biomechanical exposure variables. Finally, to further improve workers’ experiences while using wearable IMUs at work, an analysis of sampling duration, in units of days of measurement, was performed to examine the precision of physical exposure measurements collected among industrial workers in the field. Findings of this dissertation provide insights for facilitating adoption of wearable devices among industrial workers, recommendations for improving applications of wearable technologies in occupational settings, and guidance for future epidemiological studies investigating the contributions of physical risk factors to the development of MSDs.