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Preventing MSDs in oyster farming : Guaranteeing the health of workers in oyster farms

Although oyster farming jobs offer privileged proximity to the sea, making them particularly attractive to those who prefer to work outdoors, they are not without risks. Indeed, the rates of work accidents and occupational illnesses in this sector are among the most worrying among maritime activities.

Handling oyster cages, harvesting, working on floating platforms, handling heavy equipment, as well as repetitive actions such as sorting oysters, are all activities that expose workers in the oyster farming at the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

It is essential for oyster farmers to take preventive measures such as the use of ergonomic equipment.

The 5 major risks inherent to the profession

Oyster farmers must face accident risks, some of which can have significant repercussions, particularly:

1 - MSD of the upper limbs: Repetitive actions, such as handling oyster cages, harvesting and using tools, can lead to MSD in the shoulders, arms and hands.

2 - Back MSD: Activities such as working on floating platforms in a hunched position, handling heavy loads such as oyster cages and equipment, and prolonged work in a standing or bending position can cause MSDs at the back.

3 - Lower limb MSD: Walking on uneven surfaces, handling heavy loads and working on platforms can increase the risk of MSD in the legs, knees and feet.

4 - Neck TMS: Prolonged postures, such as holding the head in a tilted position while harvesting or sorting oysters, can cause neck and cervical TMS.

5 - General fatigue and muscular stress: Demanding working conditions and repetition of movements can lead to generalized muscular fatigue and stress on the entire body, thus increasing the risk of MSDs.

Beyond Pain: Understanding MSDs

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are diseases that affect the joints, muscles and tendons due in particular to biomechanical overuse.

Given their high prevalence (they represent 87% of occupational diseases in France) and their impacts both for employees (sequelae, etc.) and for companies (absenteeism, drop in productivity, health insurance contributions, etc.), it is necessary to implement concrete actions to remedy this

Among these, it is possible to turn to exoskeletons.

Preventive measures to adopt

To prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among oyster farmers, here are some key prevention measures to adopt:

1 - Arrangement of the workstation: Adapt workstations to reduce physical constraints, for example by providing height-adjustable work surfaces to avoid excessive bending.

2 - Use of ergonomic equipment: Provide ergonomic tools and equipment adapted to the specific tasks of oyster farmers, such as ergonomic handling devices and lifting equipment, to reduce physical strain or devices to relieve the back down to the flexions.

3 – Task rotation: Encourage task rotation to diversify movements and reduce repetitiveness, which can help prevent muscle fatigue and MSDs.

4 - Taking regular breaks: Encourage regular breaks during extended work periods to allow workers to rest and relax their muscles, using ergonomic support devices.

5 - Medical and ergonomic monitoring: Offer regular medical monitoring to detect signs of MSD early and offer personalized ergonomic advice to optimize the use of support equipment and prevent injuries.

6 - Training and awareness: Provide training on the risks of MSDs and good work practices, raise workers' awareness of the appropriate use of ergonomic equipment and their benefits in terms of muscle relief and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders.

What is an exoskeleton ?

Physical Assistance Devices (PAD) of the exoskeleton type are ergonomic solutions which, as their name suggests, aim to reduce the biomechanical demands on workers.

Worn on the body like a backpack, these exoskeletons are completely passive (no motors, cylinders or other electronics) and operate using a principle of energy storage-return thanks to springs made of composite materials.

In concrete terms, the exoskeletons developed by ErgoSanté facilitate work, reduce fatigue, preserve health and maintain employment.

HAPO SD: the exoskeleton that relieves the back even when bending on the ground

THE HAPO SD (Without Unlock) is the simplest and most robust passive physical assistance device in the HAPO range. Both light (0.9 kg) and discreet, the HAPO SD has been designed to partially redirect efforts from the upper torso (via pectoral support) towards the thighs.

Operating using spring rods made of composite material, the HAPO SD reduces lumbar physical load workers and thus preserves the intervertebral discs.

The optimal situations for the use of the HAPO SD exoskeleton are those requiring a complete flexion of the trunk on the ground, static or dynamic.

During laboratory tests, it was shown that, compared to a situation without an exoskeleton, the HAPO SD made it possible to reduce approximately -11% back muscle strain.

HAPO: the exoskeleton that relieves the back on demand

THE HAPO is a passive physical assistance device operating using spring rods made of composite material which allows a partial transfer of efforts from the upper torso (via pectoral support) to the thighs.

Both lightweight (1.2 kg) and discreet, the HAPO was designed to help workers reduce lumbar physical load and thus preserve the intervertebral discs.

The optimal situations for using the HAPO exoskeleton are those that require a "leaning forward" posture during static or dynamic tasks.

Usable both outdoors and indoors, the HAPO has the particularity of being disengageable so that you can sit in a machine or climb stairs without hindrance and in complete safety.

During laboratory tests, it was shown that, compared to a situation without an exoskeleton, the HAPO made it possible to reduce approximately -20% back muscle strain.