For his research, Reducing Physical Stresses and Falls Among Drywall Installers Through a PLD, assistant professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, Shad Roundy receives a six-month $3,500 grant from the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Heath Center of the University of Utah School of Medicine.

The last 100 years has seen tremendous advances in technology. We have gone from land bound creatures to traveling through space, hand calculations to supercomputers and manual labor to advanced computer controller assembly lines. Despite all this some sectors have remained relatively unchanged. One of the most prevalent is the construction industry. While great advances have been made in reliability, weight and cost the tools you find on a modern construction site have remained relatively the same. The worm drive circular saw your grandfather used in the 1950’s looks much like the one you find today. More shocking is the continued use of heavy manual labor. The CDC, the government agency that researches workplace health and safety, consistently ranks construction work as one of the most hazardous and (detrimental to health) occupations.

Of the many construction trades, drywall installation is one of the most hazardous to workers health and safety. One research study concluded that, “the drywall panel installation task poses a severe threat to the safety and musculoskeletal health of the drywall workers. Much of this could be eliminated by reducing the burden of handling heavy and bulky drywall panels.”

Across numerous other manufacturing industries, powered lift assisting technology or robotics have been used for decades to reduce the hazards to workers. This has been done through completely taking the worker out of the process to machines assisting in the process. The drywall industry has had some advances in lifting assistance in the way of cranes, forklift and hoist but all of them fall greatly behind in advances made in other sectors.

Project Goals

The goal of this project is to reduce lifting loads (and thus injury rate) by building and testing the effectiveness of a powered lift assist device for drywall installers. Numerous research projects, studies and simulations have been completed to show the hazards are real and have even quantified the stress placed on the installer’s musculoskeletal system. Therefore, an attempt to repeat or verify this data will not be made. In our project, we will quantify the stress on the installer’s musculoskeletal system while using the powered lift assist device and compare that to the previously published studies.