Ford, Ekso hope to help factory workers with this mechanic work vest

Ford (NYSE:F) wants to help factory workers avoid fatigue and injuries.

Last week, Ford said that workers at two U.S. factories began testing new mechanical exoskeletons manufactured by Ekso Bionics (NASDAQ:EKSO), and there are plans to expand the pilot program to more locations, according to Reuters.

The EksoVest is lightweight and aims to elevate and support workers’ arms while they perform overhead tasks.

You put it on like a backpack, and it enables you to hold weight and lift up to 15 pounds per arm while allowing range of motion. For heavier duty work, the California-based company also created a gravity balancing arm that goes up to 35 pounds.

“The vest is really meant for hand tools,” Ekso Bionics CEO Tom Looby told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on “Varney & Co.” “A lot of the injuries on work sites are pick and carry operations.”

Ekso began designing and selling wearable robots for the military and medical fields, but branched out in the construction and industrial market in 2013.

This is the latest step in Ford’s efforts to lower its workers’ injury rates.

“Typically what happens on Ford assembly lines and other automotive lines—they have to do repetitive motion sometimes above their head 4,600 times a day, a million times a year and if you can think about the wear and tear on a shoulder—the shoulder is one of the weakest joints in the body,” he said. “So one-third of the workman’s comp claims go to the shoulder injury. So we can help to alleviate that by maybe a half.”

The cost of the exoskeletons are $7,500, according to Looby, who added bulk orders for companies like Ford can be discounted.