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Innovative Technologies Tackling Workplace Musculo-Skeletal Disorders: A Successful Partnership between Safetytech Accelerator and National Safety Council


Reflections by Nadia Echchihab, Head of Innovation Programmes at Safetytech Accelerator.


Charlotte Hutton and I had the pleasure to represent Safetytech Accelerator at the annual National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo 2023 which took place in New Orleans on 23-26 November. It is the second year in a row we are present on the Expo as part of our strategic partnership with NSC’s MSD Solutions Lab– a ground breaking program established in 2021 with Amazon.  If you’re passionate about workplace safety and preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), you’ve come to the right place to discover the latest innovations in this field.

MSD Solutions Lab launched its first Safety Innovation Challenge in San Diego during the annual NSC Safety Congress & Expo. Hosted in collaboration with Safetytech Accelerator, the challenge spotlighted six leading technology firms from around the globe as they presented new technology solutions addressing MSDs caused by pushing, pulling, or lifting objects. This first cohort of technology companies were exhibited on a Safety technologies Pavilion last year during NSC Expo in San Diego and included solutions ranging from vision analytics to collaborative robots, wearables and exoskeletons. 

The partnership between NSC’s MSD Solutions Lab and Safetytech Accelerator also included co-authoring an insightful report, Emerging Technologies for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders as a result of interviews with executives from diverse sectors such as agriculture, logistics, and manufacturing, combined with extensive research into market-available solutions including: computer vision, wearable sensors, exoskeletons autonomous and semi-autonomous materials handling equipment or even extended reality. 

It was great to be back to Congress in vibrant New Orleans with a new challenge focusing more specifically on Upper Body MSDs. Safetytech Accelerator identified and selected a delegation of international technology companies to exhibit on an even bigger Safetytech Pavilion at the heart of the Expo. Our technology companies stood out against the many hard helmets, gloves and protective glasses on display in the Congress centre. For more info about their solution, read our official release.

While I was walking around the booths, I was happy to bump into some of the companies we brought last year and pleased to see they were doing so well.  

Paul Nicholson from Herowear had a prime location near the Boeing Dojo and our Upper body MSD tech solutions. He told me that because of his participation to last year’s challenge, they generated a lot of interests. He is excited to be back on the Expo for a second time to deepen those relationships and find new clients. Herowear has also been awarded 2 grants from the National Safety Council to pilot their exosuit with customers which will result in case studies that will contribute to rolling out technology in the workplace and improving their products. He laughs and admits that since the show they’ve been recruiting a lot more in the sales team to cope with the volume of interests.  

A robot following a man catches my eye and I realise it’s Tom Trudell from Effidence with his Effibot co-bot. Tom shakes my head and tells me it’s been a fantastic year for them since they were a finalist of the Safetytech Challenge last year in San Diego. He told me the show was a great marketing success and being associated with the NSC made a huge difference when it comes to lead generation. Having a demonstration spot for his robot on stage during the closing keynote gave him access to key decision makers from important industry stakeholders. He also shared he would be interested in joining a MSD tech community and team up with complementary technology companies to create new products and address more use cases for their customers (e.g adding a robotic arm on top of his co-bot). 


Final thoughts


It’s incredibly fulfilling to see our work has had such a positive impact and the companies we have supported are ripping the benefits of our collaboration with NSC. We must be doing something right! Reflecting on our partnership with NSC and the past year, my lessons learnt are: 

  1. Tech companies are eager to engage with NSC. There is appetite from tech companies to further engage with NSC and capitalise on the existing community built around MSD Solutions Lab. By nurturing a vibrant ecosystem of MSD Tech, employers will become aware of their potential and adopt them 

  2. Focus on implementation and deployment. While employers are keen to trial these solutions, it takes time to mobilise resources, turn employees into tech advocates and build a business cases internally. Patience and persistence are key.

  3. Collaboration is key but requires facilitation. NSC is ideally placed to facilitate a direct channel between employers and tech companies. This dialogue will feed into the next generation of MSD tech solutions which may include R&D collaborations between different technology providers. Such projects will make these solutions more scalable. 

Our journey continues, and we are excited about the road ahead. The annual NSC Congress and Expo is more than an event; it’s a testament to the collective commitment to a safer, healthier workplace. Together with NSC, we’re forging new paths in workplace safety and innovation.

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