QBE North America to offer AI-based ergonomics software to clients
Musculoskeletal disorder injuries, such as strains and sprains, caused by manual material handling and repetitive motion are leading causes of workplace injuries for companies and their employees across the United States. These injuries are often painful, debilitating, and can be expensive – but they can be avoided with strong ergonomics risk management.
Traditional ergonomics solutions involve sending an ergonomics expert to a place of work, where they will spend several hours watching and recording how employees carry out specific tasks. It can be a fairly time-consuming and expensive process.
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“While there’s certainly still a need for the more traditional ergonomics assessments depending on the risk and the industry, the Humantech Industrial Ergonomics software really came on board as a potential game-changer in the sense that it is a simple way to use technology and technical expertise to quickly gather and identify major risk factors associated with a specific job,” said Paul Isaac, SVP, head of Global Risk Solutions, QBE North America.
The process is very straightforward. Employers are asked to take a video of an operator performing a specific job or task, which they can then upload to the Humantech Industrial Ergonomics software. Through AI and computer vision, the software recognizes body segments and records joint angles, frequencies, and durations of the postures during movement. Within minutes, the output displays a skeletal overlay on the original video and indicates the risk levels in colored lines, with the color red indicating high-hazard movements.
The benefits for QBE North America customers are twofold, according to Isaac. He told Insurance Business: “One, it’s a value-add for our clients. Two, it really helps clients understand ergonomics risk factors. Oftentimes, clients don’t fully understand the risk factors their employees are exposed to, and this tool really helps them to understand the risks in a very simple way.
“They get a report that provides a score, with a red, yellow or green risk rating for a job. We will then work with that client to figure out how they can modify the job to improve their risk score. Is it as simple as changing a tool? Is it as simple as raising a work surface? Or is it more complicated in the sense that we need to re-engineer the job in greater capacity? The solution really depends on the client and the risk factors.”
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QBE North America has already had multiple success stories via the use of the software. The insurer helped an industrial equipment manufacturer by identifying a high-risk reaching motion that had caused numerous employees to suffer strains and sprains. Using the AI-powered ergonomics software to isolate the root cause of the problem (a spray gun that required an awkward flex of the arm and wrist), QBE North America then advised the client to potentially modify the tool and invest in a new spray gun that was more ergonomically designed.
“We have another client whose employees lift 50-pound bags of coffee beans several times an hour,” Isaac added. “After evaluating that job, they’ve now decided to completely re-engineer that task – and they’re now seeing over 25% efficiency gain from the ergonomics changes they made as a result of what we identified through the Humantech Industrial Ergonomics software. While the core component of this is health and safety, there’s often an efficiency gain as well, which is another metric that we try to educate our clients about.
“This technology really is a great example of simplifying the process of identifying ergonomics risk factors using AI, and doing it digitally in a way that easily communicates what the hazards are to employers so that they can fix problems, reduce their risk, and gain efficiencies in the workplace.”