EXTRAFOR: EXoskeletons for Forestry Work

EXTRAFOR: EXoskeletons for Forestry Work
DateProject completed
The tasks of harvesting and renewing stands require field operators to cut, delimb, ridge and stack in one case, and to plant, clear, prune and prune in the other. This work is physically difficult and the working conditions outside are harsh.

In order to support the operators, but also to develop the performance of the forestry sector, new solutions have to be found. One of these solutions is the exoskeleton, which lies halfway between manual and mechanised work.

Increasing wood mobilisation and improving forest management, within the framework of sustainable management, in order to prepare the resource of the future, implies questioning the two fundamental phases of the life of a stand: its exploitation and its renewal.

These tasks require field operators to fell, delimb, ridge, pile, and in the other case to plant, clear, prune, and prune. This work is physically difficult and the outdoor working conditions are harsh (vegetation, weather). Operators are therefore highly exposed to work-related accidents and are often subject to premature “physical wear and tear”.

Indeed, among the 8,000 forestry workers and 12,000 operating workers, every year about a hundred occupational illnesses linked to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are declared (excluding self-employed workers); more than 70% of them concern the upper limbs. It is therefore necessary to seek solutions that are both curative (enabling people suffering from MSDs to remain in work), but also preventive to ensure the long-term good health of field operators.

Mechanisation is the avenue explored so far to overcome these problems. On the farm, it has made it possible to improve working conditions and yields. But today, the rate of mechanisation is approaching its technical maximum: 80% in softwoods but barely 10% in hardwoods. In silvicultural work, mechanisation is still in its infancy.

In view of this, but also in view of the desire to develop the performance of the forestry sector, new solutions must be found. One of these solutions is the exoskeleton, which lies halfway between manual and mechanised work. The use of exoskeletons in the forest would assist the operator in his work and make his task easier while aiming to preserve his health, without of course calling into question his safety. It is a hybrid solution that combines the acuity of manual work with the strength and endurance of a machine, while obviously remaining financially accessible.

Technical objectives

Adapting existing exoskeletons to the technical conditions and specificities of forestry operators

Test and validate the selected technical solutions, based on an ergo-technical-economic evaluation, in comparison with the current 100% manual work

Prepare the industrialization and marketing of this new exoskeleton (communication, user guide…)

Contain the price of the exoskeletons developed so that they are accessible to the target audience

Strategic objectives

  • Preserve the health of existing operators
  • Keeping people with MSDs in work if they so wish
  • To make forestry and silvicultural work less physically demanding and more attractive
  • Provide an intermediate solution between mechanised and manual work (in terms of costs and constraints on use and impact on the environment)
  • Maintain the productivity of operators while maximising their safety

FCBA accompanied the development of this exoskeleton. To find out more about ergonomics :

Partners :

Funders :
Ministère de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation