Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) are highly prevalent in industry, where back disorders are the most commonly reported disorder. These disorders highly correlate with manual tasks that involve handling of heavy loads and frequent lifting and lowering. Research is now focusing on the use of exoskeletons to reduce the external load placed on the human body in order to reduce the risk of developing WRMSDs. However, the research is in its infancy and detailed investigation is needed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of reducing external load with respect to biomechanical and physiological responses. Compression force in L5/S1, energy expenditure data and risk of developing back disorders was determined during a lifting task which started at knee height and ended at shoulder height. This data was captured using 3D Static Strength Prediction Program, Energy Expenditure Prediction Program and the NIOSH lifting equation respectively.  The task involved lifting three different loads, 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, at three different lifting frequencies (1 lift/min, 5 lifts/min, 9 lifts/min). The results indicate that compression force of L5/S1, energy expenditure and the risk of developing back disorders decreased with reduction in the external load for all test cases examined. It is concluded that an exoskeleton which augments the musculoskeletal system may reduce physical stresses to the human body and will subsequently reduce the risk of developing WRMSDs.

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