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Will there soon be an app for preventing workplace injuries?

Over the course of the last decade, we've seen the apps on our smartphones become increasingly sophisticated, capable of performing a host of tasks that we would have once thought impossible. What makes this development even more remarkable is that as the technology for smartphone apps has advanced, it has, for the most part, remained very user-friendly.

Interestingly enough, a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are currently working on the development of a complex app that they hope will someday help employers easily reduce the number of repetitive motion injuries among factory workers. 

The current method for assessing the injury risk to factory workers involves health and safety professionals making what amounts to educated guesses based on measurements taken and thereafter assigning a risk based on a 0-10 hand activity scale. While this system works reasonably well, experts indicate that it's nevertheless imperfect and in need of revision.

Enter the UW researchers who have already devised a system of calculating hand activity level via computer vision algorithms and, now courtesy of a $1.4 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, will look to take their efforts to the next level.

Specifically, they will now focus their efforts on developing another new measure designed to assess health outcomes. This will involve analyzing video footage of repetitive motions in order to establish pattern recognition technology capable of identifying when hands are performing repeat movements, exertions and grasps.     

The end goal, say the researchers, is to combine these two research efforts, thereby providing engineers with the foundation for a smartphone app that could enable employers of any size to simply point and assess the work injury risk.

"I think all the technology we need exists on my smartphone today: a high definition camera, a high-speed processor, and the ability to do cloud computing," said the project's primary researcher. 

Here's hoping these efforts prove successful …

If you suffered some manner of debilitating musculoskeletal injury on the job -- carpal tunnel, tendonitis, etc. -- consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options regarding workers' compensation benefits.

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